Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

139 characters,39 steps

and even more laughs

Jane Wootton (Pamela) and Chris Broadfield (Richard Hannay): in search of the Steps' secrets

The 39 Steps

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


CRACKPOT comedy and moments of pure farce make for an eye-wiping evening in Curtis Fulcher's production. A company of five play 139characters, often at full pelt, often with Scots accents of amusing unpredictability. 

The exception is Richard Hannay, the suave, pipe-smoking, action-packed, unfazed, all-English hero, the man for whom desperate situations were surely created to ensure that he could have a crack at them. Chris Broadfield plays him beautifully. Come what may, there is not a tremor in sight. He is the man who meets life's alarming moments head-on: calm but quick-thinking, a gentleman to his finger-tips, especially when he is handcuffed to a lady who is trying to take her stockings off. 

The lady is Jane Wootton. Two ladies, in fact – Annabella and Pamela. She is splendid in desperation, supportive in hours of need, as straight-faced as necessary when that is what a comic moment requires. It's a performance that she wears like a particularly bespoke glove. 

Michael King and Ian Mason fill in most of the other roles – 134 between them – with spirited inspiration that includes a double act as a pair of hotel proprietors, and Helen Lammas is a pleasure to have about the place as Margaret and Mrs Jordan, as well as showing her skill as a high-kicking scene-shifter. 

This hard-working quintet fully deserve the excellent support they receive from the backstage team in a production that is often an inventive joy. It draws the biggest laugh I have ever heard accorded to a lady with a knife in her back. But there are also moments that include the silent-film send-up and the mass escape through a tiny window. Anything, at any time, seems to be on the cards. 

Splendid support comes from a wide range of musical moments. It's a happy, happy venture. To 21-05-11,

John Slim 

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