Recent Updates

Mailing List

Sign up with your email address to receive updates on our latest productions and events.

The 39 Steps
The 39 Steps

Arena Theatre presents Patrick Barlow's

The 39 Steps

Directed by Paul Nelson with permission from Samuel French Ltd.

Nothing has been cut from this hilarious and spectacular version of Britain's most spell-binding thriller, from the chase on the Flying Scotsman to the first theatrical bi-plane crash ever staged (probably). With six actors and a minimum of 139 roles, be prepared to be dazzled and delighted all in one.

  • Performance Dates
  • There are no scheduled performances of this production.
Blog Updates
Paul Nelson - Phase Two Begins      19/09/2011

This week scripts are due down and the real performance creation starts.  Although this can be a problem stage, I find it the most exciting one as the play starts to take shape.  I also think that this is the stage were you are aware that this is actually going on stage, something which is always there but never in such a big way.  I also like how, at this stage, the other elements start to blend themselves in together to become one whole rather than a mass of strands.
Paul Nelson - Lines      03/10/2011

Lines, lines, lines, lines, lines, lines, lines are for some reason proving to be a problem.  I will hold my hand up as saying that my line learning ability is of a poor standard, but this play is proving to be a problem for the actors.  Is it due to a lack of monologues?  There are only three in the play and the last one is horrible to learn (ask Scott!).  We all have our own methods of helping lines to stick, but I think that because this play is so 'narrative driven' there is a lack of soliloquising and angsty moment to latch on to.  I often tell casts that if they get the emotion right then the lines will follow.  Unfortunately this is not really the case with this play.
Paul Nelson - Sound      24/10/2011

Started at 1-00pm and by 10-00pm we still hadn't completed the first half.  Costumes are there, set is complete, lighting plan done.  
Paul Nelson - First Night      30/10/2011

Last night was, personally, one of the most satisfactory performance nights ever.  We always have had a good welcome at Shaftesbury, but last night the audience were amazing.  Responsive from the very start, they exceeded all of our expectations.  Let's face it, being a performer, nothing feeds your performance more than an appreciative audience, and this was certainly something which affected the performances of all last night.  Evidence of this was the amount of sweat everyone seemed to have lost by the interval.  It's a well known fact that actors feed off the audience and they certainly did that last night.  As a director I could not have been more proud of all of them.  The complicated nature of the script requires incredibly tight team work off stage, as well as on, and this was very apparent.  I sat behind stage for the whole performance, and even though I got told to bugger off a couple of times, I couldn't help but feel so proud of their every move.  Yes, they are acting caricatures, but their sheer professionalism and consumate team work, along with the support given by the technical crew, was a humbling experience.  Now, what we need to do is to forget about it completely and focus on the next five nights at the BLTC.  We cannot afford to recreate anything we did on Saturday, it's a different stage, it's a different situation, and it's a different audience.  We are looking forward to this and hopefully we will see people there who haven't been to the theatre, or seen our body of work, for a long time.  Thank you Shaftesbury for a great night, and we're already looking forward to returning there in February with Talk Radio.

Linda Kirkman - Scene One

FOR the first time in 20 years of reviewing, I almost missed this production by turning up at the wrong venue, luckily arriving at the right place with minutes to spare but feeling thoroughly frazzled – so this glorious and brilliantly performed production, directed by Paul Nelson, was exactly what was needed to calm my shattered nerves. I think at some point in the distant past I may have seen one or both of the film versions, and I was certainly aware that a take-off had been playing in the West End, but I really had no idea of what to expect. Now I know. As we were hurtled from London’s Portland Place to deepest Scotland and back again, with our hero Richard Hannay being pursued by the police for a crime he didn’t commit, coming into contact with some decidedly strange characters along the way, I laughed until I cried and felt my worries melting away. It’s amazing what can be done with a few rectangular boxes, torches, a window frame or two, a couple of people (Hayley Tucker & Christopher Carr) masquerading as props plus a lot of imagination on the part of the audience, and the various scenes sprang to life with a vengeance. In case you’re thinking of going along I won’t spoil the surprise by giving too much away, but I’m certain you’ll be impressed. Everything was huge fun and as slick as it gets, while the four-strong cast – Sean Watts (Richard Hannay), Rachael Cheeseman, Gareth Richards and Scott Sullivan – were absolutely outstanding, with all except Sean playing a variety of roles in an equal variety of accents. It became almost like farce as someone rushed off stage as one character and reappeared within a nano-second as another, having discarded a costume en route, and I loved it all.  This production runs until Saturday and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Go and see it, please, or I may have to send along the Professor to sort you out – which, as Richard Hannay could tell you, certainly wouldn’t be an experience to relish. Linda Kirkman
Lyn Richell - Bournemouth Echo

THE 39 Steps is a farce adapted from the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock. Patrick Barlow wrote the adaptation and the play calls for the entire film to be performed by a cast of four, plus two people as objects. One actor plays Richard Hannay (Sean Watts) while Rachel Cheeseman plays the three women in Hannay's life. All the other characters, heroes, villains, policemen, hotel keepers, men, women and much more are played by just two actors. The timing was impeccable and performed exactly for the right effect, this takes enormous skill and technique which this company has in buckets. Everyone was excellent and I really could not pick out one performance over another. How Gareth Richards and Scot Sullivan managed to get each part they played completely separate was a sight to behold. I actually started to believe in each character even when my eyes told me it was the same person, quite a feat! Hayley Tucker and Christopher Carr played doors, windows and moved furniture around with great aplomb and effect, never putting a foot wrong. The sound and lighting enhanced the whole performance. I cannot stress what a wonderful night of entertainment this was and would implore you all to go and see it. It runs until Saturday and you will not be disappointed. 
Valley News

  39 Steps, Shaftesbury Arts Centre (29 October) Rating**** This glorious Olivier Award-winning spoof by Patrick Barlow on the famous John Buchan classic, uproariously performed by the ever-inventive Christchurch-based Arena Theatre company, was another must-see at Shaftesbury Arts Centre.   And a near-capacity audience was not disappointed, with six actors playing 'a minimum of 139 roles', according to the equally satirical programme notes, rising to every opportunity to entertain without resorting to burlesque.   Altogether an absolute delight that should ensure an even bigger audience for Arena's return to SAC.
Home Mission Statement Our History Future Past Contact Us Gallery Links Admin