Theatre review: The 39 Steps

By Amanda Jackson

If it wasn't so funny it would be exhausting just watching the antics of four fabulously capable actors turning the stage into a ridiculously broad range of settings with a few well-chosen and well-made versatile props.

The speed of their transitions was an essential part of the continuity.

Trains and bedrooms, offices and lobbies, cars and aircraft, moors and mansions, all had to appear in seconds.

Add to that the dozens of characters in the play, the multitude of doors and windows, corridors and platforms and the result was a highly entertaining workout of mammoth proportions.

Credit to the cast for striking the right level of humour that acknowledged the integrity of the script, and for their serious approach to what is insanely funny and was therefore even funnier.

Accents, great facial expressions and lightning changes were the slick work of four of our best comic actors, Jane Sutherland, Danny Gorton, David Moore and David McPhail and the successful realisation of the concept was the vision of a gifted director, Nannette Wright and her team who have pulled off a very tricky task with aplomb.

The lighting was a challenging design, changing as quickly and as often as the scenes.

The musical interludes were well chosen with selections that added the right seasoning as well as a further dimension of humour.

At times, even for only the briefest of moments, where a special effect or an extraordinary prop was needed, the clever details had been meticulously attended to. It was this kind of attention that added class to a farce, inviting a sympathetic audience to relax and enjoy the zany, crazy extremes and to accept the far-fetched details of the adventure.

The stage is used to its maximum depth, two sets of curtains, and protruding boxes into the audience and this design works a treat in terms of developing realism in the expansive scenes and then tightening everything up for intimacy.

Throughout the performance, the variety at every level is engaging, the honesty of interpretation is hilarious and the final scene is picture-book perfect.

The 39 Steps

Napier Repertory Players

Little Theatre, McGrath St, Napier

November 14-24, 8pm

Tickets from Municipal Theatre, Napier

- Hawkes Bay Today

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