A rip-roaring ride from start to finish. 3BUGS production of Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of The 39 Steps was thoroughly enjoyable for all.
The play demanded a lot from director Chris Conway; difficult stage directions like high-flying airplane action, dare defying acts on top of moving trains and numerous location changes, Conway made the smart decision to keep the set simplistic. Three black tabs, several multi-purpose boxes and a doorframe were among the props cleverly used to help carry the story along. But it was the shadow puppetry that had the most charming, and still resourceful, results. When there were moments impossible to present on stage, a large white sheet covered the set while pre-recorded clips played during miniaturised paper action. In general, the use of audio clips, recorded sound effects and live composed music all helped enhance the comedic element of the play.
The story follows Richard Hannay, a typical Englishman of the 1930’s, who suddenly finds himself thrown into a classic spy plot. A non-stop series of danger and deception, coming across a number of eccentric characters along the way. Played by the ever-so suave Ciaran Cresswell, our protagonist is the perfect combination of dry sarcasm and awkward politeness in order to perfectly capture the essence of British humour.
With a tiny cast of four, Conway had the task of finding talented performers who could handle the fast pace and quick changes necessary for this comedic play. The clowns: Sam Forbes and James Harrington, were excellent at portraying multiple characters. Their performances ranged from heroes, villains, men, women, children, and even the occasional inanimate object. Also noteworthy is Hannah Fretwell, who showed her ability to transform from a sexy femme fatale into a haughty young Englishwoman and then a mild mannered Scottish housewife. The whole cast are to be admired for their nonstop energy and spot-on comedic timing which made the whole show tremendous.