Four actors play 139 roles as The 39 Steps heads to Brighton

Eugene McCoy (Ruth Crafer Photography)Eugene McCoy (Ruth Crafer Photography)
Eugene McCoy (Ruth Crafer Photography)
Four actors play 139 roles in 100 minutes of fast-paced fun and thrilling action as the classic The 39 Steps adaptation is revived for the first time in nine years.

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic spy thriller will play at Theatre Royal Brighton from Tuesday-Saturday, July 16-20.

Tom Byrne (Prince Andrew in The Crown series 4) will play Richard Hannay. Eugene McCoy (world premiere of American Psycho at the Almeida Theatre, the world premiere of Groundhog Day at the Old Vic Theatre) hasn’t got a clue how many roles he will be playing.

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“I first knew the show when it was in the West End where it played for ten years but I never saw the show but it really is my kind of thing. It's good old-fashioned entertainment in its very simplest form. It's nice to have massive big shows in the West End with big sets but when you strip everything back what you are left with is traditional entertainment and that's what this is. And for actors that really is quite a gift to get to go on and do so many different roles. I don't know how many I've got in total. I don't dare count but we've got an amazing team backstage that the audience just don't see. My clothes have all got Velcro and I will rush off and Nicky in our wardrobe will rip them off and put the new ones on and then I go back on. Sometimes you don't have a second to think before you're someone else. Sometimes you've just got a couple of seconds and then you have to switch to the next mindset. It is the costumes that help you do it but in rehearsals we didn't always have the costumes, but I have always been very strong on the physical character side of things. You have a walk or a stance or a voice and depending on which character you are playing you and stand or talk or walk in a certain way. Each character will be different in those respects.

Tom Byrne (contributed pic)Tom Byrne (contributed pic)
Tom Byrne (contributed pic)

“And it really was a nice process. We have the original staging with the original team and they took the characters from the film and made a parody of them but within that you get to do your own thing. In audition they threw a lot of characters at me but they were really interested to see what I would do. They were very receptive to you saying ‘Maybe I can make this character a Geordie or a northerner’ or whatever. I do a lot of new writing and lot of new shows and original shows and that's the way I like to work. When I've done a few take-overs in big shows then it's a little bit like you stand here and do this and then you cry on this certain word but what I really love is to have my own interpretation.

“This show is not subtle. Everything is big. Everything is exaggerated. When I'm tall, I'm standing very tall and when I am an old man, I'm playing a very, very old man. But it is very respectful to the film. People who love the film, certainly my father does, really like the fact that this production respects the film. It's also very funny and actually some other characters in the film are little bit comedy even though they're serious. It's just a slight send-up making it much bigger and much more funny.”

Tickets are available from the venue.

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