The 39 Steps – Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Writer : Patrick Barlow

Director: Lisa May

Reviewer: Colm G Doran

Bruiser Theatre Company and the Lyric Theatre present The 39 Steps, a comedic take on Hitchcock’s original spy thriller in what is likely to be one of the fastest paced evenings in the theatre you are ever likely to witness. The piece depicts the adventures of the dashing hero Richard Hannay (played by Michael Johnston) who treads the fine line of a smug upper-class gentleman and loveable rogue perfectly, and the various characters he encounters in his attempt to discover the secret of the eponymous 39 steps before the information leaves the country.

The piece hinges on its synchronisation, its speed and the cast’s ability to commit to multiple accents and zany situations. Thankfully due to what must have been a gruelling rehearsal schedule, the cast never waver in their energy and commitment to this challenging piece. Similarly the lighting and sound is perfectly timed to show off stand-out moments such as Hannay being chased by fighter pilots and later crashing a house party, which show the timing of the technical team to be flawless.

Hats must be doffed to Michael Condron and Liam Jeavons who play the clowns of the piece, multi-roling from the off from policemen to Scottish couples, their accents never faltered and their moves were never without complete confidence and purpose. At one point on a train they both frantically switch between wearing three different hats that mark three different roles, picking each up effortlessly for mere moments before the next hat switch. However this reviewer’s favourite moment of the two is when Jeavons and Condron assume the roles of the owners of the McGarrigle Hotel, while Jeavons fawns over Hannay and his ill-gotten ‘wife’ Pamela, Condron drily translates the indeterminable ramblings of his partner. The only female in the cast Hannah Brackstone-Brown, is tasked with playing the bulk of the female roles from the femme fatale Annabelle Schmidt (with some hilarious dialogue – watch out for the pronunciation of ‘involved’, it’s excellent) to the mousey Scottish wife tied to a caveman of a husband (another shining moment for Condron) to the frightfully posh Pamela, who is forced (quite literally as she is shackled to him) to accompany Hannay on the last leg of his journey. All four of the cast are on top form here; they squeeze every movement, glance and reaction for comedic value without ever appearing desperate for a cheap laugh.

It is impossible to fault this production, it is little wonder that the entire Lyric Theatre rise to its feet in triumphant applause as the curtain falls. This is a well-polished, sublimely executed glimpse into what can be achieved on a stage with a tiny cast, some stellar movement and a lot of hard work.

Runs until 16th April 2016 | Image:

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One Comment

  1. Hated it. Walked out at the break. Only thing missing was a pantomime horse.
    If you’re familiar with the film, don’t bother going

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