National Operatic & Dramatic Association
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The 39 Steps


24th November 2018


Matchbox Theatre Company


Arts Centre, Washington

Type of Production



Claire Casling


Author: Michelle Coulson

When I was invited to attend “The 39 Steps” my thoughts went to the Alfred Hitchcock classic interpretation of the well-loved novel, well I was in for a surprise as this was a four actor parody which was very funny.  It’s a play of many comedy styles including satire and slapstick and uses minimal scenery and physical theatre to move the story forward.  

The hero of the story Richard Hannay was played by Tom Casling. Tom was perfectly cast in this demanding role; his forlorn expression and despondent persona made the audience feel empathy with him and his unfortunate series of being in the wrong place at the wrong time throughout the story.  

Helen Wilson played the three different women with whom the hero has romantic encounters, Annabella, Margaret and Pamela, each one with a different accent, hairstyle and of course personality and she did an excellent job of it.  From the German woman to the downtrodden Scottish farmer’s wife and the cold hearted Margaret, Helen completely captivated the audience; the scene where she was handcuffed to Hannay and removed her shoes and stockings was hilarious.

Playing the other 200 plus roles of police officers, spies, theatre performers, railway porters, to name but a few, were Calum Tabberer and Joe Casling. These two young actors showed great versatility and skill which also included prop management, scene changing, multiple entrances and exits and countless costume changes. The energy and commitment to their performances was superb.

There were many laugh out loud moments in the two hours of madcap entertainment but a personal favourite was the scene on the train, or rather outside of the train, with the cast moving along the edge and climbing along the carriage, all of course done with just a few blocks and props.  This is a witty and high energy show which includes many comedy styles and requires the support of good lighting and sound effect cues all of which were well delivered. This was Claire’s directorial debut and what a way to start, congratulations to the entire company for an excellent evening’s entertainment.