The 39 Steps


The 39 Steps

Adapted by Patrick Barlow.

From the novel by John Buchan and the movie of Alfred Hitchcock.

Director: Chad Porter 

Production Dates:  Friday 15th – Saturday 23rd February 2019

Performance Schedule: 10 performances in total – including 2:30pm matinees on both Saturdays, but no performance on the Sunday.                                                               

Rehearsal Dates: Rehearsals will take place in 2 parts, with Part A being before a Christmas Break and Part B from the New Year, up until the show week;

Part A – Sunday 2nd December – Friday 14th December – This will consist of workshops in characterisation and multi-roling, followed by initial choreography.

Christmas Break from Rehearsals – Saturday 15th December – Tuesday 1st January

Part B – Wednesday 2nd January – Thursday 14th February – This is our main run of rehearsals, consisting of approximately 4-5 nights per week.

Auditions Dates and Format:

First Round:

Option A: Tuesday 25th September (6:30pm-9:30pm - Maddermarket Bar)

Option B: Wednesday 26th September (6:30pm-9:30pm - Maddermarket Bar)

Option C: Friday 28th September (11am-4pm - UEA Campus)

First Round Auditions will consist of a 15-20 minute one-to-one slot with the director. You’ll be asked to prepare different pieces of script, dependent upon who you are auditioning for. Audition pieces are all available in advance and it is important to be familiar with them for your audition, however, they DO NOT have to be learnt.

Please Note: If you wish to audition for the ‘Clowns’, feel free to audition solo (and the director will read in with you), or in pairs. These pairs can be combinations of any gender – it’s totally up to you – and you can be booked in for a double-slot if you wish to audition separately for either of the other roles. If you are auditioning in a pair, please note that you will still be considered individually and may be tried in a different pair, should you receive a recall.


Sunday 30th September (2:30pm-5:30pm – Maddermarket Bar)

Recall auditions will consist of a creative group workshop to begin with in clowning and commedia dell’ Arte, followed by new pieces of text being introduced and different combinations of actors being tried out.This recall will therefore include movement work and it’s advisable to come in comfortable light clothing and appropriate shoes. Extracts will be provided on the day and no preparation is required.

About the Play

Barlow’s stage adaptation of Buchan’s novel and Hitchcock’s film, ‘The 39 Steps’, sees just 4 actors play around 139 roles… bringing a classic thriller to life in an evening of madness, meta-theatre and mayhem! After winning the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2007 and having a West End run at the Criterion Theatre for nine years, it’s time for the Norwich Players to put their spin on this wonderful and challenging production. With moments of extreme farce, combined with moments of real suspense, ‘The 39 Steps’ is a play that can make you laugh and cry all in the same evening – and sometimes at the same time. 

Richard Hannay is bored, very bored – until, just like you, he decides to head to the theatre, where he meets the mysterious Annabella Schmidt and suddenly becomes entangled in a real-life spy drama! Just one scene later, Hannay is mistakenly wanted for her murder and on the run! As was Annabelle’s dying wish, Hannay must travel to Scotland to try and save the country’s military secrets from being leaked, all whilst trying to prove his innocence to police and civilians alike! 

About the Production

The production itself will utilise physical comedy and tightly choreographed sequences of farce (hence the extended rehearsal process!) to stage this very challenging piece of theatre. A strong emphasis will be placed on being one creative party, including actors, director and designers, where all ideas are welcome as we try to make the humour as developed and slickly-presented as possible. This production will aim to present moments of true suspense and true comedy within seconds of each other, requiring a group of actors to change roles very quickly (even onstage…) and costumes at a similar speed too!

There will be multiple workshops taking place throughout the process, all there to develop actors’ characterisation abilities and help them swap characters very quickly through even the simplest of idiosyncratic behaviours. In addition, we will place a strong focus on the meta-theatrical aspects of the play, with both characters and audience alike more aware than usual that they are taking part in a play. Ultimately, our aim is to have fun, and bring this fun to the stage! The play we aim to produce will be innovative and comedic in it’s presentation, yet, as Barlow requests in his foreword to the play, will never stray from presenting the story, or rather, the “love story”.

Cast Breakdown

Cast of 4: 1 Male /1 Female / 2 Male or Female

Please feel free to audition for more than one role.

Richard Hannay (Male, Playing age 25-45) Actual age of the character is 37, however this is flexible dependent on the most realistic playing age of the actor cast. Hannay is a typical, bored English gentleman, who is suddenly thrown into a whirlwind of adventure when he meets the mysterious Annabelle Schmidt and just one scene later is mistakenly wanted for her murder. As the figurehead of this action-packed comedy, Hannay scales the UK in a chase to prove his innocence, whilst simultaneously saving the country from a terrible spy-based threat. Dynamic, relatively dashing, and ultimately brave, throughout the mayhem of the play, Hannay grows to be a man of passion and, in many ways, learns to love in his own ridiculous way.

Annabella Schmidt / Pamela / Margaret (Female, Playing Age: 20-35) Three women who shape Hannay's adventure in very different, yet equally powerful ways. They are all played by the same actor, who must above all be a confident multi-roler. Annabella (German accent ideal, but can be learnt) is mysterious and courageous, yet slightly-nervous (with very good reason!) when she makes Hannay “involved” in the play’s spy-antics. Margaret (Scottish accent required, but can be learnt), however, is slightly more shy due to her domestic situation, yet equally brave and strong in the risks she takes to help Hannay on his way. While, Pamela, out-spoken and often frustrated, appears cold and damning, but ultimately learns to love as much as Hannay does.

Clowns 1 and 2 (Male or Female, Playing Age: 20+)  The ‘Clowns’, as Barlow refers to them, multi-role throughout the play, playing over 50 different people each and the odd sign-post… This requires actors who are, once again, confident in their ability to multi-role (and costume change!) at speed – often playing multiple characters at the same time and rarely leaving the stage in-between. A competence in the Scottish accent is also preferable but can be taught if needed. The actors playing ‘The Clowns’ need to be creative, intelligent and energetic, noting clearly when a character is there for comedic effect or there to strongly benefit the plot. As I have said previously, auditions are open to people reading for these roles individually or in pairs. The playing age here is deliberately open, and the clowns will be cast bearing in mind the age demographic of the full cast.

Please note: As the production requires a lot of physical comedy, it is imperative that actors have a good level of physical fitness and can maintain their energy levels throughout a performance and a substantial run. If you have any queries of worries about a physical limitation that you wish to discuss in advance, please contact the director Chad Porter  and we will happily discuss it with you and see what can be done to assist you.

How to sign-up to audition:  

Please download and complete the standard auditions submission form here.The completed form should be returned as an attachment to Director of Productions at The Maddermarket Theatre, Jez Pike at Your information will then be processed, stored and distributed in accordance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The director of the production – Chad Porter – will then contact you via email to arrange an audition slot.

Alternatively you can print off the form and hand it in at the theatre office, or fill in a hard copy there.

Please note that all auditionees must complete an ‘Auditions Submission Form’ prior to auditioning, even if have had existing contact with or made informal arrangements with the director of that production.