The King’s Players – “The 39 Steps” Review
There was so much slow mo running it could be British Baywatch
It’s opening night for the last of the trio of The King’s Players run of plays, and the standard has been set so high by “On the Move” and “A Street Car Named Desire”. It was time for “The 39 Steps” to take its place on that pedestal, and to be frank old sport, it achieved everything it set out to do and more.
The entrance into Tutu’s, alone beautiful at night with the landscape of Southbank and the Shard in the background, did not detract from the presence of Richard Hannay (Dom Rawson) and vivacious jazz music that set the mood of 1930s London as the audience fought for their seats. Eloquently dressed Hannay only became more inviting as the opening monologue revealed his boredom of his situation (yet an excellent moustache that even lasted till Act 2) and the play began.
“The 39 Steps” was adapted from a very thrilling 1930s book written by John Buchan, then further adapted in 1959 into script. A spy story set in London and Scotland that is bound to go wrong at some points, the play relies on an immense talent for multi-roling and physical theatre that this 5 member cast and director Carys Hughes aced from the beginning. The enigmatic Annabella Schmidt (Holly Ludlow) meets Hannay at a theatre show of Mr Memory, where she is pursued by secret agents, and involves Hannay in the story until he is convicted for her murder and ultimately involved in the 39 steps – his boredom is finally cured.
The multi-roling of Camille Hainsworth-Stapes, Arsentiy Novak and Alan Hall deserves special commendation for their ability to project and create believable comedic characters; not once was this audience quiet while this remarkable trio were on stage. Their performance in the famous train scene on the journey to the Highlands (usually recreated with flapping of jackets and physical theatre) was hilarious, the crude jokes (and great pick of tiger print knickers), hat swaps and wigs of policemen and inn owners accompanied with different accents to project “GET OOOT MA HOOS” had the audience falling out of their seats with laughter.
Each character was fiercely strong and individual – the direction of Carys Hughes and Mustafa Fecto brought out the actors’ individual flourish combined with visible directorial input. The character of Margaret (Mary-Claire Harvey) evoked a grand sense of empathy and a “go with him!” from the audience. Hannay was portrayed brilliantly by Rawson; his accent, facial expressions and comedic capability completed the stage. All spectators commented on well-timed physical theatre that must have taken hours to perfect, but Hughes put on a stunning array of scenes that made us all in awe of the immaculate timing of all actors present on stage.
The minimalist set design (Talia Stern and our very own Sylvie Dumont) did not make the play bare as extensive props were used to construct visual landscapes; all the technicalities of lighting (John Pham) and sound effects (Josh Righton), costume (Veronica Victa and Carys Hughes) and makeup (Vivi Jaramillo) made it so much easier to be seduced by the whole production.
Richard Hannay – Dom Rawson
Pamela – Holly Ludlow
Clown – Alan Hall
Clown – Arsentiy Novak
Clown – Camille Hainsworth – Staples
Margaret – Mary-Claire Harvey
DIRECTORIAL TEAM –
Producer – Josh Righton
Assistant Director – Mustafa Fecto
Director – Carys Hughes
TECH TEAM –
Stage Manager – Lulah Smart
Props & Set – Talia Stern & Sylvie Dumont
Lighting – John Pham
Sound – Josh Righton
Costume – Veronica Victa & Carys Hughes
Makeup – Vivi Jaramillo
Photography credit goes to Carys Hughes