SANTA CRUZ SHAKESPEARE 2017 24 In 1914, John Buchan, a Scotsman from Perth who had made his living as a barrister, journalist, poet and novelist, lay sick in bed during the first days of World War I. He was a war correspondent before joining the army and would later serve as Director of British Intelligence. While in his sick bed he wrote a novel he titled The Thirty-Nine Steps. The novel marked a successful turning point in Buchan’s literary career. It was his first “shocker,” as he called it – an adventure story combining both personal and political dramas – one of the earliest examples of the ‘man on the run’ thriller. In 1935, Alfred Hitchcock, an Englishman from Leytonstone, a filmmaker with a growing reputation, decided to adapt a novel by one of his favorite writers as the subject for his next film. He chose The Thirty-Nine Steps. Departing substantially from the novel, Hitchcock and his writers created his first film based on the idea of an “innocent man on the run.” The film was acclaimed in the UK, made Hitchcock a star in the US, and established the quintessential “Hitchcock blonde” as the template for his succession of cool and elegant leading ladies. In 2005, Patrick Barlow, an Englishman from Leicestershire, an actor, director, comedian and playwright - renowned for his comedy double act The National Theatre of Brent’s legendary two- man epics - decided to adapt an iconic movie using just four actors. Drawing on both Buchan’s novel and Hitchcock’s film, Barlow created a loving tribute to the work of both men and a wild and wonderful new ride for the theatre. So, from the minds of three great storytellers and one hundred years in the making, we are delighted you are here in the Audrey Stanley Grove to experience The 39 Steps. John Buchan wrote his novel The Thirty-Nine Steps while recovering from an ulcer in the summer of 1914, on the eve of World War I. Like his book’s hero Richard Hannay, Buchan was a native of Scotland who also spent time in South Africa. Frustrated at being unable to join in the war effort, Buchan created in Hannay a robust adventurer who could do everything Buchan could not. Santa Cruz area resident Alfred Hitchcock (in 1940 he purchased the Cornwall Ranch near Scotts Valley) first read Buchan’s novel when he was twenty; he would then mine the novel for its most cinematic and theatrical elements, while adding new twists and characters for his 1935 film. Ranked the fourth-best British film of the twentieth century by the British Film Institute, The 39 Steps was a resounding success with both audiences and critics. The themes and techniques at work in the film would provide a template for Hitchcock’s own later work and the entire suspense genre. In The 39 Steps, theatricality and artifice are foregrounded as themes; the film both begins and ends in a theatre. The rowdy music hall and the London Palladium frame Hannay’s adventures, and the final scene disrupts the boundary between theatre and reality as secrets are revealed in front of the Palladium audience. Mistaken identity – an innocent man is pursued by both police and enemy spies – is essential to the suspense and excitement of The 39 Steps, and would resurface again in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (a remake of The 39 Steps) and The Man Who Knew Too Much. The exceedingly clever Hannay makes a captivating fugitive as he outwits his sinister pursuers and fights to expose a dangerous international plot. The film also introduces audiences to Hitchcock’s famous “icy blonde” leading lady (a character absent from Buchan’s novel); this trademark character of Hitchcock’s films provides a counterpoint to the leading man, challenging him but also becoming a partner in “crime.” Patrick Barlow’s lively satirical adaptation, which premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2005, embraces the story’s comic elements as it recreates the film’s ambitious action sequences with minimal props and set pieces – and portrays over one hundred characters with only four actors. Its theatrical brilliance, its ingenious references to other Hitchcock films, and its witty inventiveness make the play an adventurous celebration of and tribute to a filmmaking genius. Director’s Notes Paul Mullins Dramaturg’s Notes Maria Frangos