Hitchcock-inspired comedy a multi-role tester for actors

Brent Caldwell (left) and Richard Ellis play multiple roles in madcap comedy spy thriller The 39...
Brent Caldwell (left) and Richard Ellis play multiple roles in madcap comedy spy thriller The 39 Steps, which opens at the Globe Theatre tonight. Photo: supplied
Four experienced actors will be put through their paces, portraying dozens of characters between them in the Globe Theatre’s madcap comedy production of spy thriller The 39 Steps.

A parody play adapted from the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock, the four-actor version of The 39 Steps was written by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, and rewritten into the current version by Patrick Barlow in 2005.

Directed by Rosemary Manjunath and featuring Thomas Makinson in the leading role of "loveable rogue" Richard Hannay, Harriet Love as several love interests, and Brent Caldwell and Richard Ellis as the clowns, the Globe Theatre’s production of The 39 Steps opens tonight.

Manjunath said performing the show was a mental and physical workout for the actors, who had to race through quick changes in characters and costumes.

"There is lots of word play and physicality to keep the actors on their toes throughout.

"It really is fast and furious comedy," she said.

Although Makinson only has the character of Hannay to perform, there are no chances to take it easy, as he dashes from one scenario to another.

"This play is definitely a workout for me — by the end of the first act, I have really worked up a sweat," he said.

Manjunath said along with working on their performances for the show, the actors were pitching in to help out with back-stage tasks as well, including painting sets and sorting props.

"It’s a busy time for theatre in Dunedin at the moment, with several productions on the go — so it has been hard to find people able to help with the backstage work," she said.

As the new chair of the Globe Theatre board, Manjunath was keen to boost numbers of people able to help out with productions.

 - The Globe Theatre production of Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps runs from May 16-25 — most performances at 7.30pm, Sunday matinee at 2pm.