39 Steps to a Hysterical Play

The “shocker” 39 Steps is exactly as its author John Buchan described it: “an adventure where the events in the story are unlikely and the reader is only just able to believe that they really happened”. And it seems when the story was adapted for the stage the writers took this idea and ran with it, creating an extremely entertaining parody of a cozy drama.

Through a parody we are able to learn some of the common elements used by the subject matter being presented. For example when it comes to characters, a cozy drama will generally include: the innocent ordinary (yet dashingly handsome) man (and don’t forget the pencil mustache) that always gets pulled into the conflict and ends up solving the mystery in the end; the unassuming (yet somehow stunning) young girl who will inevitably be pulled into the mess (and despite her best efforts, fall for the leading man); and the two dim-witted henchmen (who’s thoughtlessness will aid the plot in its unlikely escapes).

Parody happens to be my favorite genre of literature, so it probably wouldn’t surprise you that I thoroughly enjoyed the entire play. What most impressed me was the staging throughout. For instance: when they were on the top of the train with their coats flapping in the breeze, the swaying and theme music whenever the love birds would meet, and the movement of the picture frame window during Hanney’s escape from the farm house. The effectiveness of these moments came about because the actors choose to make use of every moment and weren’t afraid of making fools of themselves: two ingredients necessary to make any play a success, and this one definitely was.


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