Nov 21

Vertigo Theatre’s ‘The 39 Steps’ is full of laughs

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

Review written by Jenna Shummoogum

John Buchan wrote the novel The 39 Steps in 1915 and in 1935 Alfred Hitchcock directed the film version. It was then adapted and written as a four-actor play by Simon Corbie and Nobby Dimon, and then again later by Patrick Barlow in 2005. The 39 Steps is pretty familiar to Calgary. Vertigo’s former artistic director Mark Bellamy directed a production of the show back in 2010 and Stage West put on a production in 2012 but Vertigo’s current artistic director Craig Hall has never managed to see a production. So Vertigo Theatre brought in director Ron Jenkins to mount a madcap production of The 39 Steps.

The play tells of Richard Hannay (Tyrell Crews) who leads a seemingly uneventful life. He goes to the theatre to watch a show starring Mr. Memory, where he meets Annabella Smith (Anna Cummer). She confesses  to Richard that she is a spy and she is being pursued and that he must leave London and go to Scotland and look for a big house. Shortly after the confession, Annabella is murdered and Richard goes on the run.

The play is a comedic satire with Cummer playing all the women that inevitably are seduced by Hannay while Andy Curtis and Ron Pederson play everyone else, from inspectors to bridges, to children. It’s physical comedy and it’s mad fun!

Crews and Cummer have perfected their interactions together, especially with Cummer as Pamela handcuffed to Crews. They are over the top and have chemistry on stage. Curtis and Pederson work well together as a duo in whatever role they are playing, providing contrast and laughs and delivering lines that seem like mistakes but are perfectly rehearsed.

Narda McCarroll’s set design is transportable with doors on wheels coming in and out, chairs put down as a car, and a podium showing up when it needs to. It’s a set that adapts on the fly, like when the narrative switched to puppetry and goes from the setting of a train to the setting of a lake in a flash. Peter Moller’s sound design creates the gale-like wind, the sounds of a party and the audience in the theatre. It all comes together to contribute to the fast telling of the show.

The 39 Steps is a pleasure, but a pleasure that seems to run a bit too long. The first half is all fun but the second wares just a bit. The jokes run a bit long and the plot gets lost along the way, even though nobody really follows it well into the first half. It’s all about the four talented actors on stage, but they lose a bit of steam.

Vertigo Theatre’s production of The 39 Steps runs until December 16th. More information is available online.

Photo Credit: Citrus Photography

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