The London and touring production of The 39 Steps began a short Irish tour at the Everyman Palace, Cork and it is a fine tribute to four actors and the able direction of Maria Aitken that this zany pastiche of a movie or several movies is as fresh, as manic, as hilarious and as side-splittingly entertaining as it was when it started out.
The setting by Peter McKintoch is amazing using a huge range of props and costumes to create trains, theatres, offices, moors, car chases in a wonderful physical style of acting where four actors play 139 parts in 100 minutes of thrilling action and fast paced changes. In one scene a man juggled two costumes and three hats and with lots of smoke effects had the audience either mesmerised or shrieking at the daring or laughing helplessly at such controlled mayhem.
Whether you understood the John Buchan original story or saw the various movie/TV versions made no difference as each scene explained itself and held the attention.
Dougal Bruce-Lockhart played Hannay, the jolly hero with verve and stiff-upper lip surprise. Katherine Kingsley played three different heroines with sometimes swooningly funny actions and double takes, but it was Richard Braine and Dan Starkey who rocked me with such a series of portrayals. Starkey was priceless fun.
The Everyman Palace has a great programme of plays and shows and Cork is less than two hours away. The competition increases for Waterford venues, with Wexford just over an hour away and Kilkenny is about forty minutes on the new road from Newbridge to Loughboy.