Story the subject of many adaptations

Pictured in rehearsal are (from left) Ewan Phillip, Christopher Hewitson and Leah Gow.
Pictured in rehearsal are (from left) Ewan Phillip, Christopher Hewitson and Leah Gow.

The East and Old Church in Forfar will be at the centre of one of popular fiction’s most famous adventure stories this Friday and Saturday.

Forfar Dramatic Society is staging its latest production in the church, John Buchan’s spy drama ‘The 39 Steps’, although the stage show does differ from other adaptations.

Although faithful to the original story in many respects, including the legendary chase on the Flying Scotsman, a death-defying escape on the Forth Bridge, and the dramatic finale at the London Palladium, it is told in a way that is extremely funny and lots of laughs are very much the order of the day.

Buchan’s novel has been adapted for the large screen on several occasions, most notably Alfred Hitchcock’s original 1935 black and white version starring Robert Donat as the hero, Richard Hannay, on which the play is loosely based.

In the Hitchcock film, the story follows Hannay, an engineer on an extended stay in London, who tries to help a counter-espionage agent prevent an organisation of spies from stealing top secret information. When the agent is killed and he stands accused of the murder, he goes on the run with an attractive woman to save himself and stop the spy ring.

The original stage adaptation by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon was subsequently re-written by Patrick Barlow in 2005 and features four actors playing between 100 and 150 roles. This means the cast of four, Ewan Phillip, Bill Atkinson, Christopher Hewitson and Leah Gow are called on to make numerous extremely quick costume changes in what is a very high octaine performance.

In addition, the script is full of allusions to - and puns on the titles of - other Alfred Hitchcock films, ‘Strangers on a Train’, ‘Rear Window’, ‘Psycho’, ‘Vertigo’ and ‘North by Northwest’.

Tickets for the show, which will be performed in the East and Old Parish Church, this Friday (November 14) and Saturday (November 15), cost £10 for adults and £8 for concessions. The ticket prices include refreshments.

Sales for both nights are going well and anyone thinking of attending is advised to book quickly to avoid disappointment.

Tickets can be booked at The Toy Castle, 86 Castle Street (closed Thursdays) or online at Ticket Source via the Society’s website at

Anyone who is keen to see the show but is unable to attend either performance will have an opportunity tomorrow evening (Thursday) as the Society is performing the play in the Abbey Theatre, Arbroath. Details and tickets can be found at the Abbey Theatre’s website at