submited for the September 19th edition of the Kanata Kourier-Standard, Stittsville News and West Carleton Review papers.
Press article Jim Holmes wrote for the Kanata Kourier Standard.
The 39 Steps.A Spoof and a Spy Thriller Reviewed by Iris Winston

5 actors playing 130 characters?  The fun unfolds at Kanata Theatre!

Hey, who remembers that little used low tech device called .... your imagination!

As a child did you ever pick up the perfect stick and have it morph into a sword?  Did the top of your neighbour's trash can work great as a shield?  Were you one of the Avengers, or Sheena the warrior princess?  That was fun, wasn't it!  Better even than your fancy schmancy high tech virtual reality.  What a shame we grow up and forget how to do it.

Well, most of us do, but the grownups at Kanata Theatre will be giving our imaginations a  new  workout with their first production of the 2013-2014 Season The 39 Steps.

Now "Steps" is a busy busy play adapted from a novel by John Buchan, and from the movie of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock.  It opens in the 1935 London flat of lonely, bored Richard Hannay  back home from Canada.  But it doesn't stay there long.  In the next 100 minutes he is accused of murdering a lady spy/femme fatale, and escapes while encountering a milkman, salesmen, policemen, a lord and lady, a crofter and his wife, a 'nice girl' (as in 'get the girl') and so on. While on the run Hannay finds himself in a music hall, hotel lobby, train bound for Scotland, a bridge in the mists of the highland moors, a crofter's cottage, and a mansion. 

How is this accomplished on the stage?  With five actors who have mastered split second timing, 75 props, 18 set changes, 64 costume changes, over 500 lighting and sound cues, and a very busy back stage crew.  Set pieces spin on and off the stage, a few trunks and a train whistle become the Edinburgh train, a fireplace and easy chair is now a study, an empty picture frame becomes a window through which our hero escapes into the moors, ... and our imagination is awakened from a long sleep, having a ball experiencing it all.

Mike Hammond plays the part of Richard Hannay throughout, with Allison Harris covering both the naughty and nice female leads.  Andrew Williams, Gordon Walls and Paul Behncke play the rest of the 120-plus characters crossing back and forth between genders and twisting their tongues into various British accents.  Director Sandy Wynne shoulders the immense challenge of making it all run smoothly.

Kanata Theatre’s production of John Buchan’s The 39 Steps by Patrick Barlow runs in the Ron Maslin Playhouse, 1 Ron Maslin Way, just off Terry Fox in Walter Baker Park, from Tuesday to Saturday September 17 to 21 and 24 to 28. Tickets are $20. Subscriptions for all five plays in the 2013-2014 season  are available for $75. The Playhouse is accessible. Parking is abundant and free. Call the Kanata Theatre box office 613 831-4435. You can get more information and see pictures of the cast at www.kanatatheatre.com.

MADCAP COMEDY KICKS OFF KANATA THEATRE’S 45TH SEASON

We Canadians know him as Lord Tweedsmuir, the 15th Governor General of Canada, the distinguished British statesman and diplomat who died in office in Montreal in 1940.

But the world knows him as John Buchan, Scottish writer of perhaps as many as one hundred books, credited with inventing the novel in which the innocent patriotic ordinary man is forced to flee across country from enemy agents conspiring against his country, cheating death with every step. The novel that did this is Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, published in 1915 just a year into the Great War. This hugely popular classic inspired many film, radio and television versions, including Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film.

But none of these adaptations has tried the impossible task that now confronts the brave cast of Kanata Theatre’s production of John Buchan’s The 39 Steps by Patrick Barlow opening Tuesday, September 17 in the Ron Maslin Playhouse.

You see, the novel features more than 130 characters, but they will be played to hilarious effect by only four actors. These courageous souls include Mike Hammond who enjoys the luxury of playing only one character, the hero Richard Hannay, throughout the show and Allison Harris, who plays three roles which supply most, but not all, of the show’s feminine interest.

That leaves Gordon Walls and Andrew Williams, the Clowns,  to play all the rest of the characters. That’s right- all 130 of them. You can only marvel at the dexterity with which these two execute turn-on-a-dime switches from good guys to villains, from workees to gents often in the wink of an eye, often within the same scene.

All of this inspired comic chaos, reminiscent of Monty Python,  is under the careful eye of Sandy Wynne, who returns to the director’s chair after her successful production of Proof several years ago. John Buchan’s The 39 Steps ran for 771 performances in New York beginning in 2008. It was nominated for four Tony awards, including best play,  and won two.

Kanata Theatre’s production of John Buchan’s The 39 Steps by Patrick Barlow runs in the Ron Maslin Playhouse, 1 Ron Maslin Way, just off Terry Fox in Walter Baker Park, from Tuesday to Saturday September 17 to 21 and 24 to 28. Tickets are $20. Subscriptions for all five plays in the 2013-2014 season  are available for $75. The Playhouse is accessible. Parking is abundant and free. Call the Kanata Theatre box office 613 831 4435. You can get more information and see pictures of the cast at kanatatheatre.com