39 Laughs a Minute


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Review The 39 Steps – West Meon Theatre – Village Hall, 25 January 2019

Aha! Burns Night! What an apt evening then to be whisked off to the Highlands in this comedy version of the Hitchcock film / John Buchan novel.

Murder, attempted murder, alleged spies, laughs galore – and even an unexpected appearance from the South Central Ambulance Service all played a part in this splendid evening.


As you will know from one of my reviews a few years ago, the Cheriton Players are ever so slightly bonkers. But team up a couple of their leading lights with those of the West Meon Theatre and they’re all absolutely barking mad.

The Director Helena Gomm told me that those who live outside the Village Hall had never heard such raucous laughter from there before.

This boy-meets-girl-is-he-a-spy-or-not story has plenty of dark and poignant moments. But there are plenty of laughs every minute too as our hero / villain Richard Hannay (Charlie Hellard, below) goes on the run to Scotland after being accused of murder in Portland Place.


I loved ‘Mr Memory’ – thank yoooooooo. I loved how the men (David Cradduck, Stuart Forsyth and Glynn Williams) went in and out of 50 characters in as many minutes.

There were also very strong performances from Fi Beresford and Becky James who are both well-known to West Meon audiences.

I also loved the scenes on the ‘train’ – do you remember how the old compartments were so small that you were in everyone’s face the moment you all stood up? Superb!

There were running jokes throughout, particularly with the street light (below), escaping through window panes, and even a ventriloquist’s dummy (David Cradduck) which had us all laughing our backsides off.


It’s amazing what you can do with a ladder – how you can even make it look like the front end of a biplane.

We had back projected images of the police chase… and four chairs became a car (below).. all very inventive.


Then we had an unexpected scenario where a member of the audience became ill and the whole thing ground to a halt for 40 minutes.

It was certainly the first “Is there a doctor in the house?” moment for many of us there, and everyone acted calm and professionally. For those of you who were understandably worried, the director Helena Gomm reports: “Last night’s casualty was monitored in the ambulance for several hours and then discharged. He spent the night with his family and went home this morning. I went round to see his daughter and she says he is fine and she will pass on everyone’s best wishes.”

I’m sure that everyone there will applaud the speed with which the South Central Ambulance Service got there and then set up a mini-hospital in the car park.

How everyone carried on (to huge applause) to finish, picking up from the moment the show stopped was incredible.

A great show – which did go on!

Thank yoooooooooo…

Kevin Gover

(Images: Craig Robertson)