Review: The 39 Steps at the The New Vic, Newcastle under Lyme

Writer: John Buchan

Adapter: Patrick Barlow

Director: Theresa Heskins

The New Vic has a growing reputation for its family entertainment and this new production of the 39 Steps is no different with this spy story, full of light hearted comedy and a touch of New Vic storytelling.

Once the house lights fall the small cast of four jitterbug their way on stage, moving set pieces as pass. It sets the pace of the performance throughout and works impeccably well with James Atherton’s uniquely crafted musical score.

Theresa Heskins directs the piece in traditional Nev Vic style and ensures no stone is left unturned and uses every element of the performance for comedic effect. Heskins ensures the imagination of the audience is the magic formula of its success and uses very little props and set pieces to create some memorable scenes that swerve between a chase scene on top of a train to the top of the Forth Bridge.

Dawn Allsopp’s black, white and red set stimulates the mind and with only few rails, a sparse amount of furniture and props they interlock together to create ingenious set pieces including a hotel room complete with a four poster bed.

Michael Hugo is well known with regular audiences at the New Vic and his larger than life multi rolling is at its finest here playing one of the clowns. His impeccable ability to perform in the moment, away from the script when possible reminds you of the joys of live theatre. Gareth Cassidy joins Hugo as the second Clown and he too is a delight to watch. The duo has a wonderful rapport and natural comedy together and this is shown at its best when they create a couple of hoteliers.

Issac Stanmore is the standalone Richard Hannay, a bit of a lost soul who’s not quite sure of his place in the world and leaps at the chance to look into what the 39 steps are in order to clear his name. Stanmore is incredibly light on his feet and this is really shown in an impressive routine where he dodges two fighter aircraft using his fast feet.

Rebecca Brewer completes the four strong cast. Brewer is great in the three roles she plays with headstrong Annabella Schmidt her most prominent role. Brewer’s slightly sassy and clever character is charming and sophisticated.

The 39 Steps is a clever piece of entertaining theatre. With a cast of only four, a wide array of characters are brought to life in a quirky and fun way. The plot is enticing and the non-stop comedy throughout makes it something that’s great for families to enjoy together. It’s the attention to detail; from the cast, to the production design and direction that makes this a well crafted rapturous example of feel good theatre that is a sheer joy to watch from start to finish.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5money *A complimentary ticket was given in exchange for this review. This value for money rating is based on the ticket price value of £23 + £1.00 Booking Fee. For more info on this value for money rating please visit here: Introducing a new kind of rating

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