The 39 Steps: style

The 39 Steps: style

Style and Tone

  • The 39 Steps is heavily rooted in the style of a farce, with over-the-top scenarios, melodramatic performances and comedic circumstances.
  • The play uses a meta-theatrical approach; it is a play within a play, deliberately drawing attention to its performed nature.
  • Despite the high-energy and comedic nature of the production, there are moments of tension and suspense which serve to anchor the plot and enhance the narrative.
  • Although the story is set in the 1930s, the style of acting and staging is non-naturalistic, often veering towards over-exaggeration and caricature.


  • There is an element of physical theatre throughout the performance, requiring strong physical work from the actors to convey the story and characters. This includes exaggerated movements and expressions.
  • In line with the farcical nature, the pace of the play is fast and the timing sharp, requiring precise execution from the cast.
  • There is a great deal of cross-casting, with actors playing multiple roles - this requires quick transitions and distinct differentiation for each character.
  • The dialogue is witty and quick, containing a number of one-liners, puns and asides that give comedic quality to the performance.
  • Finally, there is a strong emphasis on teamwork in this style of performance, with the cast often working in unison to create complex scenes and character interactions.

Visual Comedy and Interaction

  • Visual and verbal gags, along with slapstick comedy, are frequently for comic effect.
  • There is frequent interaction with the audience, which adds another layer of metatheatre and helps to create a participatory atmosphere.

Set and Technical Aspects

  • The set and props are minimalistic and multi-functional, often being used in imaginative and humourous ways, contributing to the overall comedic tone.
  • The lighting and sound of the play also play a major role in setting the mood and adding depth to the performance.