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The Thirty-Nine Steps

Written by
Adapted from the novel by


Ross Gumbley’s witty, smart adaptation of the John Buchan classic thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps follows the Alfred Hitchcock film and recent West End theatrical spoof, but very much stakes out its own ground in terms of style.

Feeding off British fears of enemies both within and outside its borders on the eve of the First World War, it’s pumped up into a ripping good yarn.  Allan Scott of The Press described Gumbley's version as a “stylish and quite delightful take-off.”

Lindsay Clark of Theatreview praises the craft and theatricality Gumbley brings to making the novel work for the stage. “Gumbley settles for direct storytelling from Richard Hannay, Buchan's hero,” writes Clark, “with frequent cinematic fades into action sequences borne along by stirringly patriotic music and often embellished by wonderful models.

A trio of actors plays a dazzling array of minor roles and the whole experience is delivered with a playfulness that is partly tongue in cheek deflation of the genre, and partly pure inventive fun.”


Court Theatre Production Christchurch.

Plot / Synopsis

Adventurer Richard Hannay has just returned from South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his London life - until a murder is committed in his flat, just days after the victim had warned him of an assassination plot that could bring Britain to the brink of war.

An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, Hannay goes on the run in his native Scotland, where he must use all his wits to stay one step ahead of the game - and warn the government before it is too late.

One of the most popular adventure stories ever written, The Thirty-Nine Steps established John Buchan as the original thriller writer and inspired many other novelists and filmmakers including Alfred Hitchcock.


ACTOR 1 Richard Hannay.
ACTOR 2 Tommy the Soldier, Doris, Julia Urquart, Paperboy, Angus Jnr,
ACTOR 3 Walter, Paddock, The Milkman, Wallis, Inspector, Angus,
Barclay, The Colonel, Sir Harry, James, Agatha, Lord
ACTOR 4 The Cheeky Kaiser, Marmaduke Mesmer, Franklin P Scudder,
Barnes, Policeman, The Engineer, A British Seaman, Gibson,
Alexander Turnbull, Bi-plane pilot, Deacon McNaught, Twisdon,
Tarquin Jopley, Zeppelin pilot.


(3M 1W)

Sample Script

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Production Costs

12.5% of Box Office. In New Zealand apply to