The Thirty Nine Steps

Well, this has to be the must see of the season here in Melbourne. I was dubious as to whether Marcus Graham could pull off this type of high camp humour, but he did marvellously. The timing was absolutely brilliant and the audience marvelled at the fast paced high jinks throughout. The ‘nod, nod, wink, wink,’ references to Hitchock’s films had the audience applauding and the plot had enough twists and turns to keep everyone amused.

This wonderful send up of film in the first half of the 20th century was clever from the beginning with the strobe lights recalling early talkies (which thankfully didn’t last too long, my eyes couldn’t stand it!) to the many tropes seen in British film before 1950. The audience was asked to participate in the action by the actors addressing them in asides and making remarks about the stage set such as when Hannay asks the stage hands who are holding the ‘river’ a length of silvery satin, up so that he can’t cross, to just put it down after making the attempt several times.

The plot is roughly as follows: Hannay, a typical upper class Brit, is bored, goes to the theatre to see Mr Memory a sideshow type character who memorises facts for the audience to quiz him on. A shot rings out and a beautiful, mysterious woman then asks herself back to his flat. He later wakes to find her dead, lying across his lap with a knife in her back. Before she went to bed she mentions a place in Scotland and some spy business. Rather than stay in London and face murder charges he heads off to solve the mystery. There are some hilarious travel scenes where the police believe that they have him only to find him escape through the window of the train and run along the roof. The conveyance of this on a stage is something to behold. The bodies of the actors (of which there are only four!) sway in time to the movement of the train and then Hannay escapes off the Forth bridge and the police give chase. I won’t give away the ending, just see it.
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