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The 39 Steps, London West End Play Review

Updated on December 12, 2014

The 39-Steps, West End Play, by John Buchanan

A review of the play: The 39 Steps which is probably the best west-end theatre play on in London, England, at the moment (in my opinion)

The 39 Steps is currently playing at the Criterion Theatre, which is in the middle of Piccadilly Circus in the West End of London. The 39 Steps, by John Buchanan was most famously directed by Alfred Hitchcock in the classic 1935 film, but this play, which is produced by Maria Aitken, while based on the same film (rather than the book), is an altogether different experience: An hysterical comedy version of the original thriller. Whether you are a fan of the original film or the book you will find this play an excellent alternative to the usual London West End Theatre experience.

Please read the review of the play below and also recommendations of alternative things to do in London and England, places to stay and eat

The 39 Steps

Review of 39 Steps Theatre Play

At The Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, London, England

I saw this play recently and I haven't laughed so much in a long time. This really is an extremely amusing play. We chose this play on the recommendation of a review which claimed it to be the funniest play in the West End at the moment, which I took with the usual pinch of salt, but decided to give it a try anyway. It really is. Maybe the funniest thing in the West End ever.

I won't give away too much of of the plot, not that it would really spoil the experience. The 39 Steps, by John Buchan was most famously directed by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1935 film, but this play, which is produced by Maria Aitken, while based on the same film (rather than the book), is an altogether different experience. With just four actors minimal scenery, and simple visual props and many characters this is an absolute masterpiece of visual humour and comic timing. This is perhaps the ultimate spoof espionage thriller. The play starts with the 37 year old hero feeling bored and looking for something exciting to do. He goes to the theatre where he meets a mysterious young lady and to cut a hysterical story short, she gets murdered in his flat after revealing some secret information and the chase begins. Most other roles are played by just two male actors, sometimes several at a time with just a quick change of hat and accent to alert you to the identity. Pythonesque female characters and outrageous overacting will keep you laughing to the end.

The Film: The 39 Steps - Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Where is the Theatre?

Where is the Criterion Theatre? - Map of Piccadilly Circus, West End Theatre District, London, England

A markerPiccadilly Circus, London -
Piccadilly Circus, London
get directions

39 Steps: The Book

Where is The Criterion Theatre?

The 39 Steps is currently playing at the Criterion Theatre, which is in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, easy to see, with large signs outside. The theatre is a good old theatre with reasonable comfortable seats, although we had slightly restricted visibility towards the back of the stalls, but that was Ticketmaster's fault, who's description of the seats was a little misleading. The price was £26.00, which is reasonable, but ticket prices range from £12.50 to £45.00.

The nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus. The play starts at 8.00pm (Monday to Saturday) and 4.00pm on Saturday and 3.00pm on Tuesday and runs for 2 hours and 5 minutes including one interval.

More Alfred Hitchcock Films

Other Interesting Plays in The West End Theatres

Something a bit different...

The play, England People Very Nice, is on at The National Theatre, Oliver, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX. Set in Bethnal Green and watches the arrival of various ethnic minorities, over the centuries and the difficulties experienced by each wave of immigrants. Funny and thought provoking.

Postcards, Greeting Cards and Souvenirs from London

Cards, Magnets and Coffee Mugs etc.

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      A comedy version of the 39 Steps would have to be very different, guess that means that that hair at the back of your neck doesn't raise up like Hitchcock...sounds like a continuous belly laugh...I heard someone say that its internal jogging to laugh like that, sounds good to me. Love your term, "pythonesque", hadn't heard that before and it paints the picture you wanted me to see! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      John Buchan - not Buchanan

    • profile image

      annaharryson2 5 years ago

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    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I have seen several versions of the film, some years ago. I think this would make an excellent play, but haven't been to the theatre in years unfortunately. Maybe if we get some cheap tickets we can go see something.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your rich experience Andy!

    • danmont lm profile image

      danmont lm 6 years ago

      I really like 39 steps. I went to see it a few months ago and wasn't expecting it to be that good but I would happily recommend anyone to see it.

    • rewards4life info profile image

      rewards4life info 6 years ago

      It's been too long since I've been to the West End, the last thing I saw was Cats about 6 years ago. Your review of The 39 Steps sounds like it will be worth braving the underground to spend an evening in the theatre. I love Alfred Hitchcock so this play is my sort of thing. Nice lens, very helpful.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      The 39 Steps is one of my favorite Hitchcock classics. Blessed by the Entertainment > Performing Arts Squid Angel.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 7 years ago

      A must see

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Ah, that sounds fabulous my dear ... I was thinking my life, you know 39 steps to get where I am today. Hugs.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 7 years ago

      I would love to go to London to see this...but, I would love to go to London even if I didn't! ;) Great info.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 8 years ago from New Zealand

      Nice Job, play sounds interesting.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      We love community theater but have never been to something like the Criterion. 39 Steps sounds like a fun play. Nice to be really entertained when you go to a performance.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Wow. I have never been to London but you sure convinced me that The 39 Steps is a must-see play. Great review.

    • profile image

      Joan4 8 years ago

      Sounds like a great play!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 8 years ago

      This is a useful, informative lens, I love it, I 5*, fav, lensroll as well

      I enjoy immensely


    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Great lens!

      Thanks for sharing.


    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Excellent job Andy. I always enjoy reading your lenses.