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Actors take on classic thriller 'The 39 Steps'

18 January 2019

This year’s production of ‘The 39 Steps’ was an exciting step away from the dark themes of recent productions ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’ towards a more comical and slapstick style. This inevitably presented new challenges and hurdles to overcome which we hadn’t necessarily foreseen. The production brought together a large number of students, each with their own individuality that they could bring to this production. There was a vastly talented make-up team, a persevering tech crew and an amazing cast. This all led to two amazing performances that inevitably ended with the audience leaving the Octagon in stitches.

‘The 39 Steps’ is a slapstick comedy that was based on a novel by John Buchan. The original novel is a spy thriller and couldn’t be further from the stage adaptation that was later written by Patrick Barlow. The play is a comedy that follows the hero, Richard Hannay, on his journey across England on the run from the police after being wrongly accused for murder. Along the way, he meets many unusual characters such as a secluded couple from the highlands of Scotland and a beautiful yet temperamental young woman. Meanwhile, he is chased by an evil Professor who is trying to smuggle secrets out of the country. 

From casting to opening night, the rehearsal process was two months. This meant that the rehearsals were particularly intense compared to what they were during previous productions. This production couldn’t have been pulled off as fabulously as it was without the amazing backstage crew who supported the actors through the show. The technical crew worked for hours to create beautiful lighting designs and managed to mic up the whole cast with only a day’s notice. The make-up team, led by Lindsay Lucas, made sure that the whole cast were looking their best and got them on stage on time after their speedy changes. 

This was the first play for which we have used a live band and it was a roaring success. Thank you to Mr Skilbeck for getting together the group of talented musicians who played in the shows. A huge thank you must go to Martha Howells who took charge with all of the props and backstage work. She put an inconceivable numbers of hours into planning this production and we would’ve all been lost without her. 

A final thank you, of course, must go to Mr Lane who managed to put up with the cast messing around during rehearsals and struggling to learn our lines. He never fails to remind us of the shock he felt when he went backstage after the first performance, only to find concealed scripts in the set. His hard work and patience made this production an amazing and unforgettable experience.

Madeleine Howl 
Year 12 Drama Scholar

Stunning photography courtesy of Hannah Vaughan in Year 13

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