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

Quick steps for laughs on the run

Hello, hello, Hello, what's goin' on 'ere then?: Richard Hannay (Dexter Whitehead) is confronted by Pamela (Zoë Male) and the long arm of the law, for a few seconds at least, in the ever changing shape of Mark Nattrass and Allan Lane

The 39 Steps

Sutton Arts Theatre


PATRICK Barlow's frantic and funny adaptation of John Buchan's The 39 Steps continues the Sutton Arts Theatre's season at a  fast and furious pace under the imaginative direction of Patrick Richmond-Ward. 

The story is set in Britain between the First and Second World Wars. Richard Hannay (Dexter Whitehead) has returned to England after jolly exciting times abroad.  His friends are dispersed around the world, he's tired of the politics and rumours of the time  - and he's bored.   

A trip to the Palladium to see the amazing Mr Memory is sure to help relieve the tedium of his life.  However, he gets a little more excitement that he bargains for as his path crosses with femme fatale Annabella Schmidt (Zoë Male) and he is implicated in her murder, a crime which uncovers a web of spies, secrets and lies as Hannay is pursued by the police to Scotland and back to London and the eventful final performance of Mr Memory. 

Dexter Whitehead engages immediately with the audience capturing the very essence of the dashing Hannay. - 6' 1” with piercing blue eyes and a rather attractive pencil moustache - a posturing charmer with the most splendid of pipes. 


Zoë Male plays Annabella Schmidt secretly and seductively.  And she plays  the wife of a Bible-punching farmer, the excitement-seeking Margaret, with enthusiasm, an unusual gait and great wellies.  She also plays the simpering but lovely Pamela very . . . simperingly.   

Mark Nattrass and Allan Lane have mastered many comical characters and comedy moments and cause much hilarity with their dozens of characterizations.  They are wizards of quick change, juggling characters and accents as easily as they juggle their hats and wigs.    When they do go wrong no one notices or even cares so fast is the action; it just adds to the fun.  

The set is a minimal, fits-all, empty room with a projector screen, a window and a door.  The transition between scenes is somewhat hectic at times but does add to the humour of the show. Some very accomplished comedy moments are produced through innovative and complex use of props; in particular the transition from Sherriff's office to the hustings and to the journey in a splendid 4-seater motor car.  The clever use of film helps to set the scenes. 

Overall there was much chuckling which fell just short of belly laughs and there was the odd hiccup while Barbara Christopher did yet another great job as prompt, but rarely were her services needed 

Comments overheard on leaving the theatre included; “Brilliant” and “Weren't the accents good”?  And I agree.  A spiffing evening's entertainment. The show runs until 29-10-11 

Lynda Ford 

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