The cast and creatives of the London production of The 39 Steps were in celebratory mood last night, toasting both six Tony nominations for the sister production on Broadway, and a new partnership with Mackintosh & Globe-Trotter.
The launch, held at flagship store of the high end clothing and luggage brand that provides props for the hit comedy, was a buoyant affair, coming just hours after news of the Tony nominations had broken.
“It’s amazing how this little play keeps on finding admirers, including the great committee of the Tony Awards,” exclaimed producer Edward Snape. “We’re thrilled – couldn’t be anything else – and, I think, in some way surprised because it has always been one of these personal ambitions, the play; for it to keep no growing in popularity is fantastic.”
Snape, who is currently working on another adaptation of a “major British film”, also took time to praise American producer Bob Boyett, “a man of great taste”, who is co-producing five of the six heavily nominated British productions. “He has just chosen hit after hit,” said Snape. “He spotted The 39 Steps way back when it was a fledgling show. He’s done incredibly well.”
Patrick Barlow, who adapted the play from the John Buchan book and Hitchcock film, was in similarly high spirits: “When my girlfriend texted me to say ‘You’ve got nominated’, it was fantastically exciting. Even though I go around saying ‘Who cares about awards?’, it strangely does matter.”
The 39 Steps was first seen in London when it was staged at the Tricycle in August 2006. After a successful season it transferred to the Criterion in September of the same year. The comic thriller, which uses just four actors to play a wealth of characters, went on to win the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2007. Since then the cast has been freshened up sporadically to inject the production with a new burst of energy.
The latest arrival is actor Jo Stone-Fewings, who began playing Hannay just two weeks ago. Dressed in a three-piece tweed suit and suffering in the early summer heat, he made himself at home in the Burlington Arcade store that provides the show’s multi-functional props. Among his explanation for the show’s popularity was the fact that: “there’s something about the 1930s; the way everybody spoke, very particular and very quick… and very sexy as well.”
Co-star Josefina Gabrielle tried to keep her distance from the range of bags on display, admitting that luggage is a weakness of hers: “purses, handbags, wheelie bags, overnight bags, you name it. I have so many bags.”
Though currently nursing an injury, Gabrielle bubbled over with enthusiasm when talking about the show she is due to stay with until at least July, describing the pace of the hectic performance as “like jumping down a water shoot. Then we come out the end and go ‘woo hoo!’”
The last word of the evening went to Josephine Buchan, granddaughter of The 39 Steps writer John Buchan, who was thrilled to be able to pass the Tony nomination news on to her father, Buchan’s only living child. “He’s 92 and he’s really not very well. He said to me there’s an irony that the only time I’ve ever had any money, I’ve spent it on a Stenna Stairlift. I’m going to ring him and tell him that it’s been nominated.”