Theatre review: The 39 Steps, Menzieshill Community Centre

The 39 Steps
The 39 Steps
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There’s nothing 21st century theatre audiences like better than to be taken behind the scenes of some bigger and more dominant art-form, whether it’s film, television, or radio. Add the sheer nostalgic appeal of a show that features the golden years of radio in the 1930s and 1940s, and you have a perfect piece of lightweight entertainment, completely predictable in outline, yet infinitely fascinating and amusing in detail; and that’s exactly what Dundee Rep achieves with this year’s community touring show, which features American writer Joe Landry’s stage version of The 39 Steps, reimagined as a pre-war radio play based on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film.

The 39 Steps, Menzieshill Community Centre ***

The play forms part of Landry’s Vintage Hitchcock trilogy, and is therefore very short, at less than an hour of playing-time. Within that space, though, Irene Macdougall’s terrific Dundee company – starring Ewan Donald as Richard Hannay and Emily Winter as his sexy sidekick Pamela, with Barrie Hunter, Billy Mack and Ann Louise Ross – deliver a deft, funny and romantic piece of comic theatre, greatly enlivened, as these show always are, by the antics of whoever is playing the sound effects engineer, bashing trays of gravel, blowing old train-whistles, and playing in some rousing Dick-Barton-style music.

Irene Macdougall and designer Leila Kalbassi add an edge of Scottish radio history by modelling the set on the original 1938 BBC Scotland studio, in a famously cluttered attic in Bath Street, Glasgow; and although there’s nothing to be found here beyond a brief tribute to a beloved Hitchcock movie, and to the glory days of radio, it’s a delight to see the job so well done, by Scotland’s finest ensemble company.

On tour until 23 June