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Review: The 39 Steps, Windsor

Femme fatales will be clutching their pearls in this slim-line parody of the 1935 Hitchcock film, The 39 Steps. It's fast, funny and has a Downton Abbey film star.

The 39 Steps Windsor Theatrev Royal man and woman two policemen

Awesome foursome: Jonathan Bourne, Colin Elmer, Max Hutchinson and Tricia Adele-Turner.

I say old chap, it’s the ultimate slim-line parody of the John Buchan’s novel, The 39 Steps, brought life by Hitchcock’s 1935 film. So all you femme fatales go grab your waist-length beads and clutch and hot foot it down for some fast-paced farcical laughs in this highly creative, calamitous production.

Let’s talk about the cast. It won’t take long because there are only four of them. Yes, that’s right – FOUR people. But don’t worry, it wasn’t a lonely experience. I’m not sure how they manage it, but somehow this skinny-mini cast play over 100 roles. There were some high-jinx hat swapping, accent changing and super fast costume changes by Tricia Adele-Turner, Jonathan Bourne, Colin Elmer and Max Hutchinson – who you will have to look out for in the upcoming Downton Abbey film. They were all brilliantly on a par and had quite possibly the most ridiculous amount of lines to learn between them.

39 steps windsor theatre royal max Hutchinson in hat chased by policeman

The dashingly handsome Max Hutchinson

Our hero, Richard Hannay (played by Hutchinson) is, we are frequently told by the voiceover guy, dashingly handsome with dark wavy hair, piercing blue eyes and a fashionable pencil moustache. But when a mysterious, beautiful woman mixed up in some dodgy spy biz is mysteriously murdered; he becomes a marked man on the run and we are off into some mad-cap, often bizarre, but always hilarious situations. Jonathan Bourne and the slightly John Cleese-esque Colin Elmer change personas at, quite literally, the drop of a hat or the turn of a coat.

I was with my very Scottish husband, who did wince a bit when the accents went north of Hadrian’s Wall, but said that Tricia Adele-Turner’s Glaswegian was ‘quite good’ and coming from a man from Renfrewshire, that is about the best compliment you can get. Trust me, I know!


I particularly liked the random Hitchcock references. Don’t worry, they will make sure you don’t miss them. The timing by the cast, sound and lighting designers was spot on and boosted the comedic slap-stick moments. I also loved the way they maximised the minimal stage set and props. When you see the elephant on the journey back from Scotland, you’ll know what I mean.

Did I laugh out loud? I laughed loudly throughout, but so did the rest of the audience and there was even some impromptu cheering and clapping. It was the kind of wholesome fun you can bring the whole family to and you will all leave talking like Jeeves and Wooster – or maybe that was just me?

The 39 Steps is on at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Saturday 18 August.

Words: Chantal Farqhuar

4 comments on “Review: The 39 Steps, Windsor”

  • Sonya Robinson August 20, 2019

    Great play, saw it in London & laughed myself silly, love a bit of slapstick. Great night out.

    • rachel August 20, 2019

      Can’t beat silly humour.

  • David Salter. August 14, 2019

    How extraordinary to review the stage version of The 39 Steps (Which I have seen – in London) without mentioning its ‘only begetter’ John Buchan but giving full credit to Alfred Hitchcock..

    Best wishes, all the same,

    David Salter.

    • rachel August 14, 2019

      Well spotted David and worthy of a little update. Rachel


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