14th Nov, 2018

Breakneck speed 39 Steps at Birmingham's Crescent Theatre is great fun

Bromsgrove Editorial 12th Sep, 2018 Updated: 12th Sep, 2018

THERE were just four actors playing a myriad of parts when The 39 Steps was staged at the Crescent Theatre’s Ron Barber Studio.

In the plot, a night at the theatre turns swiftly into a complex cacophony of dastardly deeds, merry mayhem, murder most foul, sinister spies, lovers, lasciviousness and a barrel load of laughs.

The action zooms from a moving train to cars to Scottish Highlands and Lowlands to back where it starts in the theatre where only the knowledge of the famous ‘Memory Man’ can save our innocent hero from a trip to the gallows.

‘The 39 Steps’ started life as a novel by John Buchan, and then became a classic movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, a radio play and a straight dramatic adaption before Patrick Barlow created this ‘whacky races on speed’ version.

It was a smash hit both on Broadway and in the West End running for many years and scooping lots of awards.

The Crescent quartet of actors give their all to the venture.

David Baldwin’s combination of innocence and arrogance make him a perfectly suave Richard Hannay, Molly Wood suitably flaunts herself in all the sexy roles whilst Niall Higgins and Katie Goldhawk take on seemingly hundreds of characters with great aplomb – all credit to them for remembering who and where they are.

The action takes place in the confines of the Ron Barber studio, which is set out in a panoramic style with the audience straight on.

The downside of this is if you are seated in the middle you are fine but if you’re seated to one side then you miss out on the action if it is appearing on the other.

In my opinion, it would have been more inclusive had it been set in the round or traverse.

That is to take nothing away from the company who with just a few benches as furniture take us with them on this breakneck journey.

The lighting design by James Booth is quite magnificent in its creativity, the sound well conceived and balanced by Roger Cunningham.

Director Sallyanne Scotton Moonga has worked in tandem with her actors with her touch showing like a fifth cast member at times.

Catch it before it closes on September 15– it’s great fun.

Visit https://www.crescent-theatre.co.uk/ for more information and ticket prices.

Review by Euan Rose.

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