As previously tipped (See The Goss, 11 Jul 2006), the comic stage adaptation of John Buchan’s whodunit The 39 Steps will transfer directly to the West End following its current run at north London’s Tricycle Theatre. It finishes at the Tricycle on 9 September 2006 and reopens the next week at the West End’s Criterion Theatre, where performances are expected to commence on 15 September ahead of a new press night on 20 September.

The 39 Steps revolves around Richard Hannay, a Canadian visitor to 1930s London. After a disturbance at the end of a “Mr Memory” music hall show, Hannay meets Annabella, who’s on the run from foreign secret agents. The pair are followed back to Hannay’s apartment where Annabella is murdered, setting Hannay on the run in an attempt to break the spy ring and prove his innocence.

The romantic spy thriller was memorably filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935 and has been adapted, with a comic twist, by Patrick Barlow (aka Desmond Olivier Dingle, artistic director of the fictional National Theatre of Brent, whose hit comedy shows include Messiah, Love Upon the Throne and The Wonder of Sex), from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon.

The stage version, first seen last June at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse, requires four actors to play 150 roles between them and recreate all of the story’s thrills and spills, including the chase on the Flying Scotsman, the escape on the Forth Bridge and, according to promotional material, the “first theatrical bi-plane crash ever staged”.

The Tricycle cast – Charles Edwards (playing Hannay - pictured), Catherine McCormack, Rupert Degas and Simon Gregor – will all reprise their performances in the West End. The 39 Steps is directed by Maria Aitken and produced by Edward Snape for Fiery Angel Ltd and the Tricycle Theatre.

- by Terri Paddock