39 Steps steps into Brisbane

The 39 Steps by Hit Productions. Image by Belinda Strodder
The 39 Steps by Hit Productions. Image by Image by Belinda Strodder

4 Actors. 100 Roles. 39 Steps.

Spies, secret identities, a chance meeting on a train, love, and murder… The 39 Steps show has it all.

Originating as a book by John Buchan, The 39 Steps has had many incarnations, including Hitchcock‘s famous film adaptation, it is now the longest running comedy on the West End and the recipient of Tony, Olivier and Helpmann Awards. After having a previous successful tour in Australia, The 39 Steps is back for seconds.

Currently performing the show in the Melbourne, Anna Burgess took a few minutes out to chat with guest writer Jemma Lanyon. A versatile actress, Burgess has worked extensively in theatre, particularly in musicals and operas including The Producers, Anything Goes, Sweet Charity, Macbeth and Rigoletto, as well as on screen in productions such as Any Questions for Ben, Thank God You’re Here, Neighbours, and Australian Idol.

Unusually, Anna was specifically asked to audition for the show by director Terence O’Connell, who she had previously worked with on The Pyjama Game, amongst other shows. Anna had seen The 39 Steps on West End for £10 and what really struck her was the sheer amount of fun the actors were having, and so she leapt at the opportunity O’Connell presented to her.

The 39 Steps by Hit Productions. Image: Belinda Strodder
The 39 Steps by Hit Productions. Image by Belinda Strodder

Speaking of actors, the show only has four, although together they play over a hundred. Anna plays four of these characters- a German spy, the love interest, a Scottish housewife, and a pilot. Distinct physicality and vocals help her to flip quickly between them and she has become used to the frenetic pace of change.

When asked how she keeps it fresh doing the roles for the second season, Anna quickly dismisses any concerns. She says what keeps her going is, “The gift of the script. There’s a great sense of play between the actors, and we love the audiences loving the comedy”.

Hitchcock fans should be aware that the show is more of a parody than a faithful rendering of the original thriller.

Anna describes the humour as “cleverly British” and reminiscent of shows like ’Allo ‘Allo! and Monty Python. In Anna’s words, The 39 Steps is essentially “a great show with a great script.”

“You’ll laugh, yell…it’s so fun. We often go to the theatre to see something serious, this is pure entertainment. It also has heart and a message of love”, she said.

Catch The 39 Steps at Brisbane’s 12th Night Theatre from October 21-26. For more information, visit the Hit Productions’ website

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