Laura Caswell and Corey Haas

Laura Caswell and Corey Haas

REVIEW: 39 Steps offers fun-filled ride

39 Steps takes the audience on a ride filled with laughter and vitality, if not with a few bumps along the way.

It might seem an odd composition of humour and suspense, but anyone who followed Alfred Hitchcock’s illustrious film career knows that the one can co-exist quite seamlessly with the other.

However, in Peninsula Productions’ current summertime stage effort, 39 Steps, White Rock’s professional theatre troupe tackles Patrick Barlow’s retelling of the Hitchcock classic, replacing much of the suspense with sketch-comedy-styled entertainment, in the spirit of Monty Python, SCTV, perhaps even The Carol Burnett Show.

Based on the 1915 ‘shocker’ novel by John Buchan, the work was enhanced 20 years later with Hitchcock’s cinematic flourish of comedic intrigue, introducing the world to the director’s signature elegant, icy blonde. Barlow’s additions – another 70 years on – kept most of Hitchcock’s laugh-strewn dialogue but added modern, energetic sensibilities, as well as the comical confines, of a four-person stage play.

So what we have is adventure-writer Buchan’s intrigue as interpreted by master-of-suspense Hitchcock, re-envisioned by comic-actor Barlow and performed, 100 years after its inception, under the direction of Matthew Bissett at the Coast Capital Playhouse.

Confused? You just might be, for about five minutes or so, while adjusting to the props-scattered stage. But then the whole production hits its cruising speed, taking the audience on a ride filled with laughter and vitality, if not with a few bumps along the way.

Cory Haas presents Buchan’s accidental hero, Richard Hannay, who uncovers an international mystery while being accused of murder, with conscious leading-man aplomb. Haas’s Hannay clearly knows he’s a character in a stage play, and doesn’t hesitate, from time to time, to involve, and interact with, the audience – not to mention the crew.

Haas, who not long ago was seen locally mostly reffing games for Semiahmoo Minor Hockey, is one to watch for in future plays on this stage and others further afield. He commands the audience’s attention early on, and offers all sorts of throw-away asides and expressions that add to our enjoyment.

The rest of the cast each play multiple characters from Hitchcock’s adaptation, with Laura Caswell embodying Hannay’s potential love interests, and quick-changing ‘Clowns’ (as credited) Ashley O’Connell and Ben Odberg tackling, successfully, dozens of British accents and physical gymnastics.

That all four players, at last Friday’s opening gala, made their interactions seem so effortless (when there can be little doubt that the energy required is substantial) attests to the talent on display.

Director Bissett’s stagecraft is evident, as his cast make full use – and re-use – of every item on the packed stage, though I on occasion questioned his anachronistic choices when they furthered neither the plot nor, sufficiently, the laugh quotient.

Other stage productions of 39 Steps, I’m told, focus on deft transitions and theatrical effects. Given the practical limitations of this one, Bissett wisely chose to make such restraints part of the overall fun.

Produced by Wendy Bollard and Janet Ellis, 39 Steps runs until July 25 at Coast Capital Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd.

Lance Peverley is editor of Peace Arch News.

 

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eternity Medical Equipment’s ECAN95 masks have received Health Canada approval and CSA certification. (Eternity Medical Equipment photo)
South Surrey N-95 equivalent manufacturer launches mask recycling program

Eternity Medical Equipment partners with Ontario-based LifeCycle Revive

Surrey Fire Service at a garage fire in the 14400-block of 82A Ave on March 22, 2021. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
‘Perfect storm’ of variants, increasing COVID cases are concerning for Surrey fire chief

Between police and fire, Larry Thomas said there are 8 confirmed cases, 18 others isolating

Surrey Fire Service is on scene of a fire in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue Saturday morning (April 10). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews on scene of house fire

It happened in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Small plane crashes at Delta’s Boundary Bay Airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

Most Read