The 39 Steps

A Spoof, A Parody, A Mockery?

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Take an old Alfred Hitchcock murder mystery/spy thriller movie, mix in some British farce and add a dash of Monty Python. This unlikely recipe creates the successful comedy The 39 Steps now playing at the County Stage Company’s outdoor theatre at the Eddie Hotel & Farm in Prince Edward County.

It has every element of the old movie: spies, a secret formula, and of course, murder. But somehow, when presented by a brilliant cast, all with excellent comedic timing, it becomes hilariously funny. Even those of you too young to have seen the 1930s movie can follow the path the script took from thriller to comedy. I actually watched the old 1935 Alfred Hitchcock movie on YouTube and I am astounded how hilarious the old movie became, using the same script. This has to be the best spoof, parody, mockery, take-off, satire, send-off ever made.

The acting is brilliant. Brandon McGibbon is excellent as Richard Hannay, the main character who we see throughout the show. He starts by telling us how bored he is, so he goes to the theatre, where Mr. Memory, a man with a remarkable ability to recall details, is performing. A woman comes back to Hannay’s apartment, where she claims to be a spy and is stabbed in the back. Suddenly Hannay is thrust into a spy chase to prove he didn’t kill the woman. McGibbon clings to the side of a non-existent train, climbs through windows that are just a frame, and makes his way across the moors of Scotland and though none of the props or sets exist, you’ll swear you can see them, based on his actions.

All the other characters Hannay encounters as he travels from England to Scotland and back again are played by just three actors. Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster plays the spy Annabelle, a Scottish farmer’s wife Margaret and Pamela who Hannay meets trying to hide on the train. Lancaster has perfect comedic timing and a very expressive face. She reminds me of one of my Broadway favourites, Sutton Foster.

Helen Belay and Courtenay Stevens are listed in the program as Clowns – and they are hilarious as they play too many roles to count. Both are high energy and experts at slapstick.

The actors create humour with costumes, props and the various sound effects they make. Some of the props are so ridiculous, they are laugh out loud funny. Fat sheep are created out of big balloons with lumpy heads and legs. Mini trampolines are strategically placed below the stage so the actors can bounce off them as needed.

Credit goes to director Monica Dottor for coordinating all this silliness and getting maximum comedy from this high energy cast.

This show, along with Spamalot at the Stratford Festival, is the funniest I’ve seen in awhile. Go see it. We need to laugh more. Watch the old movie on YouTube, then see this show on the outdoor stage. You will spend a couple of hours just laughing at this brilliantly funny quartet with their many crazy accents and hilarious actions.

Note: Be prepared to walk through a rough grassy field (leave the high heels at home). Take a sweater or jacket, it gets chilly as the sun sets a little earlier. Take some bug spray, although they weren’t bad on opening night.

 The 39 Steps continues with the County Stage Company, at The Eddie Hotel & Farm, Bloomfield until August 6. For tickets, visit

Photo: Courtney Ch’hg Lancaster as Pamela and Brandon McGibbon as Hannay in back, with Helen Belay and Courtenay Steves as Clowns, or police officers or spies or whoever in front, travelling in their car!  Photo by J. Krisko. 

The 39 Steps
By Patrick Barlow
Based on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock movie
From the 1910 novel by John Buchan
Directed by Monica Dottor
Performed by Helen Belay, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Brandon McGibbon, and Courtenay Stevens.
County Stage Company at The Eddie Hotel & Farm, Bloomfield, Prince Edward County
July 16 to August 6, 2023
Reviewed by Mary Alderson


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