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Hannay discovers the secret of The 39 Steps at Hurst

The 39 Steps

Senior School students have delivered the popular stage version of John Buchan’s The 39 Steps, showing why it’s a work that continues to enthral generation after generation.

Written in 1915, Buchan’s work has appeared in film and on TV over the decades;  Patrick Barlow’s very different West End production  has been delighting theatre-goers since 2005. Unusually for a current West End show, Hurst were granted the right to stage this production. 

The 39 Steps The 39 StepsSixth formers Lizzie Beeby and Rosie Zeidler directed a highly entertaining, all-action thriller with a cast of just six pupils.  Upper Sixth former Katie Digby played the three main female roles alongside Lower Sixth former Joe Beesley’s dashing Richard Hannay.

A team of Lower Sixth former Ned Colin, and 3 Remove (Year 10) pupils Rex Cleaver, Angus Graham and Sam Manly between them played a multitude of characters from a kissing gate to a hotel owner’s wife without drawing a breath.

Dashing throughout, Richard Hannay is a daring and resourceful former army officer who is plunged into the world of pre-WW1 espionage by a mysterious lady.  Finding himself on the run from his London batchelor pad, Joe Beesley was every inch the traditional British hero from his pencil moustache to his tweed jacket. 

The 39 Steps The 39 StepsKatie Digby seamlessly moved through her three roles, from the mysterious spy Annabella through the wistful farmer’s wife to Pamela, icy at first but who is reluctantly dragged into the affair before thawing to Hannay’s charms.

Throwing themselves into their ever-changing characters, Ned Colin and Sam Manly were anything but stationary in the train scene where they switched in the blink of an eye between travelling salesmen to a news seller and a porter.  Angus Graham and Rex Cleaver were a great double act, from the music hall performer, Mr Memory and his assistant to the blundering sidekicks of the spymaster.

The 39 Steps The 39 Steps

In a tale of derring-do that encompasses trains, planes and automobiles, the action crosses the country from London to the Scottish moors as Hannay seeks to clear his name.  The versatile sets  cleverly carried the audience through the locations, with cast members making lightning prop changes to create each new scene. 

Hurst's Director of Drama, Nicholas Beeby, commented, “This is a fabulous production – a spy thriller out of the original mould that is also ridiculously funny. I congratulate the directors and cast on pulling off a first-rate comedy with such verve”.