Dunstan Playhouse, Fri 5 Oct.
Richard Hannay needn’t have worried about his life being boring. From the moment Mr Memory takes the stage at The London Palladium with his quirky routine to fish out answers from deep in his brain we and Hannay are taken on a madcap ride on some vague plot to save vital security information leaving the land, and which involves something called The 39 Steps.
The four person cast ensure things move along at a rollicking pace. The Others and The Other Others seamlessly slip into their various multiple characters – often right before our eyes with subtle changes of costume, hats, simple turns, and clever choreography. A ‘masterclass in clowning’ is indeed an apt description. Slapstick and much fun with the stage set abound – windows don’t work, or slide where they shouldn’t; fish are unceremoniously thrown about, cars are made from boxes, and fires lit with a ludicrous stomp of the foot.
It takes a while to settle into this madness and realise that any plot here is a thin disguise for connecting a series of silly scenes that frequently tip over in to the absurd. The enjoyment is in the unpredictability of where it will go next. The Scots cop a fair whack. We meet Scottish cowboys, and a lovely short kilt on a buffoon of a Scottish innkeeper may not be very politically correct but it is hilarious.
Nathan Page as Richard Hannay gets a relatively easy time of it. Though on stage throughout he at least gets to settle into the one role, and he does it with dignity and unflappable English reserve. Anna Steen was entertaining in her roles as German spy and Scottish housewife, but the real stars are Charles Mayer and Tim Overton as all ‘the others’ – policemen, train conductors, innkeepers and their wives, Palladium performers – all performed with great timing and comic presence.
The 39 Steps is a fun ride. Elements of Patrick Barlow’s adaptation are Pythonesque in their absurdity and willingness to break down the fourth wall. It gets funnier as it goes – I’d completely forgotten about any 39 steps. But they do reappear at the end. Sort of.
The 39 Steps continues at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, at various times, until Sat 12 Oct.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.