The 39 Steps

Date 18th March 2022
Society Rainham Theatrical Society (RTS Ltd)
Venue The Oasthouse Theatre, Rainham
Type of Production Play
Director Kathy West


Author: Doreen Grierson for Gordon Harris

Based on the classic novel by John Buchan and its film adaptions (the most famous by Alfred Hitchcock), this version by Patrick Barlow is a spoof, re-enacted by 5 actors, playing countless roles between them. Our hero Richard Hannay (Ryan Caston) is the only constant. The woman (Jo Goodman) plays three different women, secret agent Annabella Schmidt, who winds up murdered in Hannay’s flat, Pamela, a young woman who gets involved in his situation and Margaret, the farmer’s wife who yearns for city life. A vast array of multiple roles ranging from salesmen, police officers, spies, train guard, newspaper seller, farmer, hotel keeper and his wife, Mr. Memory – the list goes on, are all played by two men, described in the programme as Clown 1 (Alan Goodman) and Clown 2 (Dean Caston). There was also a radio announcer (Steve Berry)

This play is heavily reliant on the four actors on stage who, at times, have seconds to change character, costume and accent but this couldn’t have been in safer hands. All this was achieved with the most basic of scenery and the use of imagination (the silhouette scene of the chase across the moors was excellent). Ryan Caston did a fine job as Richard Hannay, his delivery of lines was just right and clear. What a superb performance by Jo Goodman in all her different characters, totally believable. Also the way that Ryan and Jo managed to present themselves as ‘serious’ characters but were also able to deliver the comedy when needed. 

Alan Goodman and Dean Caston both worked extremely hard at their parts, which involved good comic timing, quick changes and physical theatre, a joy to watch two experienced performers who worked well together. Kathy West’s direction was spot on but with such a talented cast, it must have made her job a lot easier. Lighting and sound must have been difficult at times but from my point of view – faultless, as was the ‘dancing’ back stage crew and swift scene changes.

This is a great show, great fun to watch with lots of visual humour, which a written report cannot do justice.