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The 39 Steps

May 14th - May 18th


Alfred Hitchcock’s
The 39 Steps
Adapted by Patrick Barlow

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic spy thriller, The 39 Steps, brilliantly and hilariously recreated for the stage as the smash hit Olivier and Tony Award Winning Comedy, is back out on a UK tour after nearly 10 years in London’s West End, taking Broadway by storm, playing in 39 different countries across the globe, and delighting over 3 million people worldwide with its quintessentially plucky spirit and dashing sense of fun.

Follow the incredible adventures of our handsome hero Richard Hannay, complete with stiff-upper-lip, British gung-ho and pencil moustache as he encounters dastardly murders, double-crossing secret agents, and, of course, devastatingly beautiful women.

This wonderfully inventive and gripping comedy thriller features four fearless actors, playing 139 roles in 100 minutes of fast-paced fun and thrilling action.

**** “A joyous version of the Hitchcock classic”
The Sunday Times

**** “Hilarious”
Sunday Express

“Dizzyingly Entertaining”
The Telegraph

Running time: 2 hours (including interval)


Photo Credit: Mark Senior



May 14th
May 18th
Event Categories:
, , ,


Festival Theatre
Grange Road
Malvern, WR14 3HB


Tuesday Evening & Wednesday Matinee: £35.84, £33.60, £30.24, £26.88 & £23.52
Wednesday – Thursday Evening & Saturday Matinee: £38.08, £35.84, £32.48, £29.12 & £25.76
Friday & Saturday Evening: £40.32 & £38.08, £34.72, £31.36 & £28
Members discounts apply
Under 26s £16.80
Prices include 12% booking fee
Show Times:
Tuesday 14th to Saturday 18th May
Eves 7.30pm; Wed & Sat Mats 2.30pm

Event Reviews

  • The View From The Stalls

    A cracking fast-paced show hitting all the right comedic buttons!

    There are clearly a number of ways to present John Buchan's classic book The 39 Steps. The master of the genre Alfred Hitchcock did it in his 1935 thriller (with comic touches) starring Robert Donat. The BBC did its own rather dry version in 2008 with Rupert Penry-Jones. And writer Patrick Barlow threw away the rule book and created a very funny version which successfully played in the West End for 9 years. This is the version which has now been relaunched as a touring production by Fiery Angel. And in spite of the many characters and multiple locations, the conceit here is that it was written for a cast of just four...

    Inevitably, the actors have their work cut out to present the story of Richard Hannay who reluctantly becomes embroiled in a spy caper which was played out to enormous comic effect with clever, ever-changing stage props and many very quick costume changes, on and off stage.

    The comedy comes of course not from the plot itself but from the way the scenes have to be re-enacted, at speed, whether it be on board a train hurtling through the countryside heading for the Highlands (yes, there is an actual train on stage!), jumping from the Forth Bridge, on stage at the Palladium or in a wee Scottish hotel. Only Tom Byrne as Hannay plays a single role throughout ("quite good looking with a rather nice beard") whilst Safeena Ladha, Eugene McCoy and Maddie Rice get to grips with a wide range of characters from a Cockney milkman to a pair of very funny clowns, a Femme Fatale, Scottish inn-keepers, policemen and rogues, train guards, newspaper sellers... the list goes on.

    The script itself is remarkably respectful of and faithful to Hitchcock's version (even down to the train passengers and their range of ladies underwear!) despite using just four actors so whilst it was most definitely played for laughs - and frantically so - it was still exactly the same story as the original film. More than that, the show played subtle homage to Hitchcock by including some very recognisable Hitchcock-isms – a shower curtain, an array of birds, being chased by a plane, his appearance in the show as in his films…

    This type of madcap comedy is actually quite hard to achieve because of its rapid pace and the need for continuous perfect timing and changes of accents and costumes. Fortunately, it all works brilliantly and the good thing was that in spite of the undoubted effort required, the actors were clearly enjoying themselves and thoroughly deserved the cheers and applause at the end.

  • Stage Talk - Tony Clarke

    John Buchan’s The 39 Steps was one of the first ‘Boys’ Own’ adventure stories. Published in 1915, it tells the story of how Richard Hannay, recently returned to England after years travelling overseas, becomes embroiled in a thrilling spy chase when a mysterious and enigmatic woman is murdered in his London flat and he is forced to go on the run as an innocent, but wanted, man. The story received further acclaim and popularity when Alfred Hitchcock successfully adapted it into his much-loved 1935 film, with numerous other adaptations in the ensuing decades before the story was reconfigured into this Olivier and Tony Award-winning comedy by Patrick Barlow in 2005. At one point one of the longest-running shows in the West End, it is easy to see why the show’s popularity, along with that of the original tale, has endured.

    In converting Buchan’s groundbreaking thriller into a comedy, the production uses a cast of just four. Tom Byrne presents a very convincing Hannay, bringing to the role a skilful and deft balance of comedy, romance and adventure alongside Safeena Ladha, who plays all three of the story’s female protagonists. They are joined by Eugene McCoy (Clown 1) and Maddie Rice (Clown 2) who, somehow, portray the remaining 135 characters, doing so with some scarcely believable and very hasty costume changes, a wide range of accents, and considerable amounts of enthusiasm and energy. It is breathless stuff at times. Much of the show’s humour comes from their zany antics, juxtaposed alongside and around the main plot.

    Yet while the show is very funny in places, director Nicola Samer ensures there is enough dramatic tension as the story unfolds to keep us interested, and to make sure we actually care about Hannay and Pamela’s plight; this subtle balancing act is perhaps the show’s greatest strength. As Barlow himself suggests, “…if we don’t somehow really believe in the story, if we’re not genuinely rooting for the hero and the girl, it’s not gripping, it’s not even interesting. Then it’s just a 90-minute sketch.” At times, some of the comedy does feel a little drawn out, some of the Goes Wrong-style joke cards played one too many times, especially in the second act. Nonetheless, it is at once a joyfully silly spy yarn while successfully retaining enough of Buchan’s intrigue and suspense from the original tale, with lots of witty Hitchcock references thrown in for good measure too.

    Praise must also go to Peter McKintosh for some very clever set and costume design. This is far from being a high-budget production, but instead succeeds through some highly creative set design and clever use of props, not least several portable window frames through which Hannay makes very amusing escapes. Every conceivable setting which the story presents, from London to Edinburgh and beyond, is cleverly and amusingly presented on stage through the use of a few chairs, some boxes, a couple of stepladders…..and plenty of imagination. Lighting is used highly effectively too, most notably in an hilarious shadow puppet show to suggest Hannay’s flight across the boggy Scottish moorlands pursued by biplanes and bungling bobbies. And it is all done at the most frantic and frenetic pace as the narrative barrels rumbustiously along.

    The 39 Steps is a wonderful piece of fun which can be enjoyed on many levels, a laugh-out-loud spy romp that this evening’s opening night audience all seemed to enjoy.

  • A View from Behind the Arras

    We all love an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, but this version of The 39 steps hilariously adapted for the stage by Patrick Barlow will have you clutching your sides!.

    This smash hit Olivier and Tony Award winning comedy has played in 39 different countries across the globe, delighting over three million people worldwide.

    We follow the adventures of the handsome hero Richard Hannay, played admirably by Tom Byrne as he encounters bloody murders, double crosses secret agents, and, of course, lures devastatingly beautiful women.

    After living the relatively dull life of an English gentleman, to his amazement when on vacation in London he accidentally becomes embroiled with an international spy ring related to the “39 steps” and meets Anabella Smitd, played by Safeena Ladha, who is killed in his apartment.

    As it is assumed that he is the murderer he must elude the police who are hunting him. He also has to stop Professor Jordan with half a finger missing from sending secrets out of the country. On his travels he meets Margaret and finally Pamela also played by Safeena Ladha.

    The play unfolds hilariously as she finds herself handcuffed to Hannay, thus becoming an unwilling accomplice. At this point she hates him and wants to get away from him assuming him to be a brutal murderer. She certainly does not want to sleep in the same bed as him, but as time passes she reluctantly finds herself irresistibly drawn to him, especially when she discovers that he didn’t commit the murder.

    Eugene McCoy and Maddie Rice play all the other characters, from police officers and secret agents to hotel hosts, milkman, store keepers and many others. They also play the two clowns and Mr Memory who open and close the show at the London Palladium. Jacob Daniels and Hannah Parker are understudies.

    There is terrific use of physical theatre, mime slick character changes and even a shadow puppet sequence as these four stunningly versatile and talented actors take us on a fantastical journey. Hannay and Pamela must stop this dangerous organisation of spies that collects information on behalf of the secret service named.

    It is Mr Memory who finally divulges the secret of the 39 Steps to Hannay with his dying breath.

    This is a superb example of slick fast paced teamwork by all involved as the play moves seamlessly to a happy ending, with four actors playing 139 characters in 100 hours.

  • Fairy Powered Productions - Courie Amado Juneau

    Everyone knows The 39 Steps, the Hitchcock classic from 1935, right? This is a stage adaptation of that – well, nearly: it’s a comedic take on the original that pays homage to it whilst feeling remarkably modern.

    The opening scene introduces Richard Hannay (Tom Byrne) wallowing in his terminal boredom until the notion of a trip to the theatre hits him. A decision that unleashes epic repercussions. Mr Byrne has just the one role but it’s a corker! He portrays the dashing, (at first) reluctant hero with a zest that’s truly infectious – giving us just the right combination of exasperation, romance, fear, grit and determination that the character demands. His timing was exemplary with a marvellously deft slapstick touch; especially his athleticism extricating himself from under corpses and quick window escapes.

    Safeena Ladha gave us three beautifully fleshed out characters – from the wonderfully exotic Annabella with her hilariously impenetrable German accent and flamboyant death scene, Margaret’s naive dreamy romantic and Pamela, who Hannay understandably falls in love with. Ms Ladha showed a depth and range that was commendable. A talented actress providing the dramatic (i.e. straight) gravitas the play needed alongside her fair share of the comedy.

    What to say about Eugene McCoy and Maddie Rice (billed as Clown 1 and 2 respectively)? They had so much to do, in so many different areas, that the mind boggled. Basically, they played every other role. Accents you could use to grate cheese, quick fire costume changes (especially hats) and tearing around the stage like a young Mick Jagger all left one reeling in giddy delight. The term “small but perfectly formed” has never been more true than of this sensational cast.

    The stage scenery was a masterclass in creating a whole world with very little whilst utilising the actors physicality. Conjuring a train with a few boxes and some lighting was a good example of this! There’s a hilarious chase across the train roof which I particularly enjoyed. Evoking the moors was another highlight – especially being caught on the gorse bush. I won’t spoil the surprise with what happens (because it’s superb) but the chase involving planes and an extra special local celebrity guest appearance was hilarity personified.

    With all this tomfoolery going on it was remarkable that our two “leads” managed to create a genuinely believable couple and their burgeoning romance was perfectly pitched and stylishly unfurled. Kudos to them and director Maria Aitken. The radio announcer (acting very much as narrator) was another highlight – especially his running commentary on Hannay’s moustache.

    Some lovely in jokes with and name-dropping of many Hitchcock works will keep all fans of the Master of Suspense chuckling and nodding knowingly. My favourite was the Psycho music which is always a pleasure to hear.

    This is a joyous romp through this classic that is guaranteed to tickle the most jaded tastebuds and is just the ticket to bring some much needed sunshine into a year sadly lacking thus far in that area. Worth watching just for the Mr Crocodile scene alone. Lovers of suspense, comedy and, well, love will love this production. Catch this show while you can, you won’t regret it. Essential viewing.

  • Susan

    Just come back from the matinee performance of 39 steps what a show loved every minute the actors were brilliant timings were spot on I laughed so much in fact I laughed probably too loud !a fabulous performance from all of the cast. I recommend going to see it.

  • Mary

    Superb! Two hours of wonderful acting, a razor-sharp script and gloriously funny, physical comedy. Rapid set and costume changes make for breathless non-stop hilarity.
    I cannot praise the four actors highly enough, and they were supported by a brilliant back stage team who also deserve an accolade. It's been a memorable, laughter filled afternoon.

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