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“The 39 Steps” steps up to be another CDS winner

IMG_1025I was present, along with iNews Cayman publisher, Joan Wilson, to watch the Technical Rehearsal of the latest offering by the Cayman Drama Society (CDS), the comedy stage version of John Buchan’s famous spy thriller, “The 39 Steps”.

This stage version is based upon the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film and the Broadway production that closed in January 2011 won two Tony Awards and 1,135 record-breaking performances.

IMG_0983If the CDS had any awards to give out I am positive this production would be the winner of the grand trophy.

Even though a technical rehearsal it would not have disgraced any performance. Both Joan and I were laughing our heads off and it was very difficult for me to keep the camera still as I took photographs.

The play’s concept calls for the entirety of the 1935 adventure film The 39 Steps to be performed with a cast of only four. One actor plays the IMG_0979hero, Richard Hannay, an actress (or sometimes actor) plays the three women with whom he has romantic entanglements, and two other actors play every other character in the show: heroes, villains, men, women, children and even the occasional inanimate object. This often requires lightning fast quick-changes and occasionally for them to play multiple characters at once. Thus the film’s serious spy story is played mainly for laughs, and the script is full of allusions to (and puns on the titles of) other Alfred Hitchcock films, including Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo and North by Northwest.


IMG_0972The story takes Richard Hannay, somewhat bored with life, on an unexpected and wild adventure across England and Scotland on the trail of secret agents, while running from the police and encountering a series of intriguing women.

Everyone, from the actors to the stage crew did their job with aplomb. It was played over the top but not overdone. The stabbing of the secret agent in one of the first scenes as she lies balancing over the arm chair with hero Hannay sitting in it, staring incredulously at the knife in IMG_0967her back, made me almost fall off my seat with laughter.

Penny Phillips, the Director, must take a lot of the credit in the play’s success. She told me at the interval the cast all learnt their lines before she actually started to direct the action on stage. As she said, if the actors hadn’t done this it would have been impossible to direct because of the hectic pace the direction demanded. You cannot have actors looking at scripts at the same time.

She complimented the actors who had been rehearsing for months.

In the programme she said:

“The 39 Steps is one of my favourite plays since seeing it in London in 2008 and again in 2010 but IMG_0964it never occurred to me that I would end up directing it for CDS.

As it happened, 2010 marked the end of my tenure as Chairman of the CDS and I was greatly looking forward to my retirement from active duty for the Society after forty years of service. So after handing over the reins to Richard Johnson in January 2011, I happily pursued other hobbies until Paul de Freitas listed The 39 Steps as one of the up-coming productions. I asked him who was directing it, to which he replied “You are”.

“It was the first I’d heard of it! I said I would think about it – and here we are.

“In Paul, I have a Stage Manager who has been as inventive and innovative as my husband Peter, who had previously Stage Managed all my productions. It has been great fun not only getting back in the action, so to speak, but also working with Paul to come up with all the great “set pieces” you will see tonight.

“My cast of over one hundred have been a dream to work with, even though they are but four. IMG_1051Thank you so much – Malcolm, Michelle, Martin and Michael (Team “M”) – and sorry I wasn’t a more effective director. It is very difficult to direct when you are reduced to helpless giggles from day one of rehearsals.

“Enjoy the show!

“Penny Phillips Director”

Malcolm Ellis, in the main role of Richard Hannay, obviously takes the major applause, as IMG_1049he is in every scene and if his performance is flat the whole play is. It wasn’t even with only two of us in the audience.

He will, I am sure, admit that he actually has the easier job because he only has to play the one role. His other cast members, Michelle Morgan, Martin Tedd and Michael McLaughlin have to play all the other 100 plus parts. They all backed Malcolm up with exactly the right amount of “cheese”. Fabulous.

IMG_1045Martin Tedd, was so convincing playing a woman at the end of Act 1 Joan actually asked me who the additional female was who “performed the dance”?

Very highly recommended. I urge you to turn out in great numbers. You won’t be disappointed.

The 39 Steps

“Hilarious” – Sunday Express; “Impossible not to enjoy” – Metro; “Very IMG_1044funny” – TimeOut; “Exactly the thing the West End has been waiting for” – The Observer.

Every portion of the original spy novel, Britain’s most spell-binding thriller, remains in this outstanding comedy – including the chase on the Flying Scotsman, the escape on the Forth Bridge, and the first ever crash of a biplane on a theatre stage.

Penny Phillips – Director

Producer/Stage Manager – Paul de Freitas

Set – Paul de Freitas

IMG_1038Lighting design – Penny Phillips with Paul de Freitas

Lights – Valerie Cottier

Sounds design and programming – Paul de Freitas

Sounds – Deanna Thompson

IMG_1031Properties – Niamh Hutchinson

Crew – Jacoline Frank, Anya Mittelholzer, Jazz Pitcairn, Max Kingscote, Ariana Kingscote, Joel Lawson and the cast

Front of house – Ushani Abeynayake

Bar Managers – Eric St-Cyr and Rosa Scarpellini


Richard Hannay                                               Malcolm Ellis

Anabella Schmidt/Pamela/Margaret/etc  Michelle Morgan

IMG_1026Clown/Man 1/etc                                            Martin Tedd

Clown/Man 2/etc                                           Michael McLaughlin

VOICE                                                                Penny Phillips

Performance dates

IMG_1023Thursday 18th July 2013 – Opening Night at 7:30pm

Friday 19th July 2013 – Performance at 7:30pm

Saturday 20th July 2013 – Performance at 7:30pm


Thursday 25th July 2013 – Opening Night at 7:30pm

IMG_1018Friday 26th July 2013 – Performance at 7:30pm

Saturday 27th July 2013 – Performance at 7:30pm


Thursday 1st August 2013 – Opening Night at 7:30pm

Friday 2nd August 2013 – Performance at 7:30pm

IMG_1016Saturday 3rd August 2013 – Performance at 7:30pm





Ticket Prices: Adults $25 Students under 17 $10

IMG_1012Last word has to come for the Theatre Manager, Paul De Freitas:

• Security cameras have been installed at strategic locations and these will assist event management in ensuring a safe and timely experience for our shows.

• LIME is now a sponsor and is the official supplier of no-cost telecommunications to CDS and the Prospect Playhouse including our landline, internet, mobile box office, and TV.

IMG_1009• Our security systems are in process of being upgraded by Island Electronics, a Friend of the Theatre, to take advantage of our new telecommunications facility and allow remote monitoring and security control over the premises.

• The small dressing room also features a new, larger a/c compressor after the failure of the very old unit after many years of operation. The new unit is coated for salt-resistance.

IMG_1005• Our main auditorium air-conditioner has been replaced by a split system so that in the event of failure of one side, the other should be able to handle most cooling requirements in conjunction with the large stage a/c unit. The work was carried out by Iceland who are very good in providing us with prompt service.

We have a long way to go to complete all of the things that your Executive Committee would like to do including revitalizing the auditorium and the foyer areas. Please bear with us as we prudently tackle these tasks taking our fiscal IMG_1000position into account.

You or your company can help by becoming an Annual Sponsor at the bronze, silver, gold or platinum level. Perks include opening night cocktail parties, complimentary seats and early seat reservations. Ask at the bar for more information.





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