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Act One: The 39 Steps Review

By Eve Davies

Loosely based on a 1915 adventure novel by John Buchan, The 39 Steps is a 1935 British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. This spring Cardiff’s leading drama society, Act One, brought the espionage thriller to the stage at Pulse nightclub. The show took place on 28th, 29th, and 30th April. Directed by Jasmine Mahesan and produced by Meg Shergold, the look sound, and feel of the production made for a fun-filled evening.

Act One introduced the show with the following: ‘Four actors, espionage, and too many quick changes: we present you The 39 Steps! Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python, and you have our production! Prepare to follow the journey of our one Richard Hannay as he becomes romantically entangled in our very own fast-paced whodunit.’

An innocent man caught up in a web intrigue, Olaf Summers’ performance as Richard Hannay was brilliant. Displaying many emotions from the off, he impressively captured Hannay’s emotional rollercoaster throughout the circular narrative, from his down beat, depressed state, to his innocence, despair, and desperation. In his red waistcoat, he made a great sophisticated Londoner, with a miraculous ability to escape the police. Regardless of the schemes he finds himself caught up in, his character did not lack wit and amusing sarcasm.     

Giving all the classy vibes, Lucie Rhiannon Williams did an amazing job of playing a trio of female characters: Annabella / Margaret / Pamela. As Annabella, she knew exactly what she wanted and how to get there. She was flirtatious yet tactical in her interactions with Mr Hannay. As Margaret she was submissive to her husband but hinted that there was something special about her, remaining a likeable character. As Pamela, she was classy yet incredibly funny. I think I liked her best as Pamela!

From a presenter at the palladium, to a cleaner, a paper boy, a crude old man on the train, to a Scottish farmer, a police officer, a faux police officer, and Scottish innkeeper’s wife – the list could go on – Clown One (James Holland) had an impressive array of accents and costumes up his sleeve, and he pulled them all off outstandingly.

In similar fashion, Clown Two (Eddie Eglington) went from Mr Memory to a police officer, an underwear-selling man on the train, an invalid in-keeper named Brian, and a faux police officer. In fact, he went from a crude man on the train to a train director without even leaving the stage. This might sound chaotic, and it was, yet all these changes added to the comedy, while show casing the actors’ breadth of talent. Not one person in the audience could hold in their laughter.

The technicalities of the play cannot go unmentioned. The actors used their body language to enact motion in a ‘car’, a ‘train’, and while blowing out of the train window, which was arguably the most impressive scene of them all.  Another hilariously creative scene took place at the professor’s house where a party was taking place. The characters and crew coordinated the opening and closing of the door with the music and lights perfectly during this scene, reducing the audience to hysterics – great work from the behind-the-scenes crew.  

The props were simple and included toy guns, foam aeroplanes, a single door, a window frame, gigantic sandwiches, some chairs and, of course, the trusty bible that stops a bullet from wounding Mr Hannay. These practical props also accentuated the comedic nature of the play.  

From Mr. Hallay’s red waistcoat, to Pamela’s green trench coat and white beret, to floral skirts, suits, and a tartan farmer jacket, Bryony Williams nailed the [many] costumes in this production.

The play was comically self-referential and dramatically ironic at moments. It ended many accents, many costume changes, and many laughs later, to an applaud all round. The international drama was played by Act One with dexterous comedy. The cast were all equally magnificent, energetic performers. I thoroughly enjoyed this production!

A special thank you to the Act One society for inviting us to The 39 Steps!

Production Team:

Jasmine Mahesan – Director

Meg Shergold – Producer

Gruffydd Edwards – Assistant Director

Bronwyn Jurevicius – Stage Manager

The Cast:

Olaf Summers as Richard Hannay

Lucie Rhiannon Williams as Annabella / Margaret / Pamela

James Holland as Clown One

Eddie Eglington as Clown Two

The Crew:

Tim Winterborn – Sound

Euan Prout – Lighting

Francesca Manenti – Publicity Officer

Cleo Widdicombe – Hair & Makeup

Bryony Willcock – Costumes

Jasmine Nassiri – Props Master

T J King – Stagehand

Billy Edwards – Stagehand