The 39 Steps

Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

16/05/2024 - 25/05/2024

Production Details

Adapted by English actor, comedian, and playwright, Patrick Barlow from John Buchan’s 1915 novel and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film of the same name.
Directed by Rosemary Manjunath

The Globe Theatre Dunedin

Adapted from John Buchan’s 1915 novel and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film of the same name, The 39 Steps is an hilariously funny, action-packed parody with all roles being played by only four actors.

The original film, a spy story complete with murder and intrigue, is given a comedic twist and is transferred in its entirety to the stage. The story begins when an arrogant, womanising gentleman meets a beautiful woman at the theatre and takes her home. She claims to be a spy and is murdered. The 39 Steps, a mysterious organisation, are soon on the man’s trail in a nationwide manhunt, eventually reaching its climax in a death-defying finale!

Presented by the Globe Theatre, Dunedin.

Thursday 16th to Saturday 25th May 2024. 7.30pm, matinée Sunday 19th at 2pm, no show on Monday 20th.

Tickets $20/$15 from Humanitix:

Thomas Makinson as Richard Hannay
Harriet Love as Annabella, Margaret and Pamela
Brent Caldwell as Clown 1
Richard Ellis as  Clown 2

Director: Rosemary  Manjunath
Production Manager: Lorraine  Johnston 
Stage Manager: Sam Mehrtens 
Lighting Design: Dylan Shield
Sound Design and Operation: Louisa Stabenow 
Lighting operation: Nicky Bell and John Ingrams 
Set design: Rosemary Manjunath
Set construction: Adam Dempsey and Patricia Pantleon
Props and costume: Rosemary Manjunath

Theatre , Comedy ,

2 hours

Energetic from start to finish

Review by Judith Laube 17th May 2024

When you go to the Globe you follow a winding path through a garden and your sense of expectation is built up on the way. When I arrive to see The 39 Steps the theatre is warm and welcoming on a crisp late autumn night and the capacity audience hums with anticipation.

This performance certainly delivers.

John Buchan’s original spy story of 1915 was made into a semi-comic film by Alfred Hitchcock before Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon wrote the stage parody in 1996. This version was adapted by Patrick Barlow in 2005. The audience on opening night gets into the swing immediately and joyfully swoops on all the recognisable references and characters.

The four actors create a dazzling array of fictional favourites. Thomas Mackinson, as Richard Hannay, plays the central role with charm and vigour. With his wavy hair, piercing blue eyes and pencil moustache he is the archetypal English hero: almost irresistible to women but hard to pin down. The other three actors have a dizzying number of roles. Harriet Love plays three women: Annabelle Schmidt, an Eastern European femme fatale, Margaret Campbell, a puir wee scotswoman and Pamela Edward, a woman so determined to hate Hannay the chemistry is obvious. Love warms up through the performance and gives a convincing portrait of a downtrodden woman who has dreams of the bright lights.

The two clowns are played by Brent Caldwell and Richard Ellis. They cover so many characters it is easy to lose count. I’d like to meet their milliner. The physical gags are constant. This play is very well rehearsed and the actors are comfortable with their lines and routines. Sometimes the words get lost, particularly when accents are called for. Brent Caldwell is a standout with excellent timing and considerable audience rapport.

Director Rosemary Manjunath must be commended for maintaining a great pace and never letting the attention flag. She has choreographed tricky movement sequences and covered many transitions in time and place. Her cast always seems confident and assured which is a tribute to her leadership. She also manages costume and successfully conveys the essence of such contrasting characters as a cockney milkman and Mrs McGarrigle, a scottish housekeeper.

Lighting design is by Dylan Shield, operated by Nicky Bell and John Ingrams. This is smooth and unobtrusive. It reinforces the different settings without overriding the momentum of the story. The music and sound links (design by Louisa Stabenow, operated by Louisa Stabenow and Kieran Power) are well chosen. They are atmospheric and really help to fill spaces between scenes as well as providing another layer of meaning to the action. The set looks very simple at first, with a couple of stepladders, an armchair, drinks trolley, lamp and stool. I wonder about the empty bookshelf but it comes into its own in the Highlands ( and it is not a bookshelf). In fact the stage is almost empty most of the time but the design works to support vastly different locations and movement. Set construction is by Adam Dempsey, Patricia Pantleon and Don Knewstubb.

The Globe Theatre should be proud of this production. It is energetic from start to finish and the audience is delighted by it.


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