Sounds oddly familiar? Like The 39 Steps? Am I right, sir? Quite right. John Buchan's aim was to write "romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible". This audacious reworking of the novel-turned-cult-classic by Hitchcock extends the barriers of improbability and impossibility in an ingenious and extremely funny production by Fiona Buffini. Patrick Barlow (National Theatre of Brent) adds his own brand of humour to Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon's adaptation, and the gags come thick and fast. Push-on, pull-off props set the many scenes simply and wittily, allowing the action-packed narrative to ricochet through Buchan's tale of murder and espionage.
With clipped accent and pencil moustache, Robert Whitelock makes a spiffing Richard Hannay, his style delightfully uncramped especially when, suspected of murder, he's on the run handcuffed to his blonde alibi (Lisa Jackson). Simon Gregor and Mark Hadfield turn out a quite astonishing number of droll and distinctive characters.
What made the cinema's The 39 Steps so memorable, of course, were the thrilling images. In this staging, shadow puppetry, physical theatre, silent movie snapshots and some well-focused lighting all come into play in Peter McKintosh's tongue-in-cheek designs. Hannay's suspenseful chase along the Forth Bridge, the trek across heathery hills, the crashing biplane and the crucial vaudeville scenes with Mr Memory are all given a shake-up to deliciously absurd effect.
To Saturday (0113-213 7700); then touring
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