The 39 Steps

Friday 18 August 2006

Writing credits for this amusing four-hander production of The 39 Steps are given to the book’s author, John Buchan , and Patrick Barlow (he of National Theatre of Brent) “from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon”. Strangely it makes no mention of Charles Bennett or Ian Hay whose work , as adaptor and dialogue writer of Hitchcock’s 1935 film, most of this production is based on.

Directed by Maria Aitken (bizarrely), this is an amusing production with a great cast (Rupert Degas, Charles Edwards, Catherine McCormack and Simon Gregor) and some inventive staging.

Great value for money too – we managed to get a What’s On Stage two-for-one offer which worked out at £7.50 a seat. You can’t complain at that, can you?

Apart from the fact that the theatre seemed to be running a bizarre two-tier system of seat allocation. If you paid full-price, you got a numbered seat. If you didn’t, you had to arrive early or wander round the theatre looking for somewhere to sit. This system naturally results in lots of single seats scattered around the theatre which was hopeless if you had come as a party of two or more.

What is this thing about unallocated seating? It’s the worst thing about visiting the otherwise excellent Soho Theatre and new heights to this policy were experienced at an otherwise enjoyable visit to see Bill Bailey at the Battersea Arts Centre where the tickets had seat numbers on them but the seats didn’t.

I mean, for heaven’s sake. How much money are they saving by not putting numbers on the seats or the tickets (or both)? It’s like flying with easyjet or Ryanair – it really can’t be the lack of allocated seating that lets them fly you at rock bottom prices. It just seems to be designed to make the whole experience more miserable than it need be. Stop it at once.

Top tips

  • Pre-theatre: The Small & Beautiful restaurant 351 Kilburn High Road does an edible two course menu for £5.50 Mon-Thurs. You can’t say fairer than that.

4 Responses to “The 39 Steps”


  1. Andrew you are so right about this unnumbered seating malarkey.

    Four of us visited the wonderful Mernier Chocolate Factory to see the brilliant production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.

    Even though we thought we’d got in early enough to get decent seats we were scattered around the auditorium like dots in a Seurat painting.

    I was forced to sit on the very end of the front row and had a violinist’s (or was it a cellist?) elbow within inches of my face. If I’d sneezed I think the orchestra could have ended up on different page sheets.

    This was a production that needed a good central view.

    I wonder how much more I would have loved it if I’d had a better view.


  2. […] 2,900 views « The 39 Steps The Canterbury Tales..A cheap Knyght out » […]

  3. Luke Says:

    Having a central view definitely added to the 39 steps experience. I would have liked to see more of a review on the show rather than a slagging of the seating. In hindsight I’m sure the theatre will make changes, however, if you are that perturbed about it then pay more for your tickets, you cheap skates. Anyway I digress, the show was fabulous. From the first scene with Richard Hanay spouting off about changing his life to the end scene with “Mr. Memory” copping it from the balcony. The staging was indeed inventive and original, it may if been because of an extremely pitiful budget, but I would prefer to believe that it was just the genius of the producer. The only criticism I would make was that at the beginning of the 2nd half, after a couple of merlot’s, it seemed to lose its way, a few samey jokes were the culprit, however, Richard Hanay and his raised eye brow certainly saved the day. A wonderful evening of entertainment, definitely one not to miss. I am going for my second time next week and I can’t wait, once again I won’t have any problems with the seating BECAUE I PAID EXTRA!! Enjoy the show!


  4. Luke – be fair – this review was written August last year before it transferred to the West End.

    Despite the seating problems at the Tricycle it was a great show. Really fun.

    The thing is, one doesn’t realise quite how good it is until one sees The Hound of the Baskervilles. Really puts it into perspective.


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