THIS bold, adventurous, absolutely spiffing stage version of The 39 Steps has its roots in Yorkshire, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, and further back in time in North Country Theatre founder Nobby Dimon and Simon Corble’s original concept in North Yorkshire.

Patrick Barlow’s frantically fast-moving yet unflappable Playhouse adaptation, for so long a fixture on the West End stage, then Broadway and in 39 countries overseas too, now finds a new home in Scarborough in the summer rep in The Round at the SJT, under the slick, playful direction of artistic director Paul Robinson.

Even more than before, you have the sense of a short-handed cast of four desperately trying to recreate set pieces from Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 spy thriller against all logical odds, while striving to stay true to John Buchan's novel too: elegance, eloquence and elasticity all united at once in such a dapper and dastardly clever whodunit. Even the ushers join in at one point, blocking the exits, as if to emphasise there is no escape from this mad, mad whirl on Helen Coyston's unruly set.

York Press:

New combination: Niall Ransome and Laura Kirman as the multi role-playing Man and Woman in The 39 Steps. Picture: Sam Taylor

Sam Jenkins-Shaw, co-founder of the Out Of The Forest theatre company, is in the thick of it as Buchan's dashing, upright, tired-of-life Richard Hannay, newly returned to his lonely Portland Street abode, with pipe, pencil-slim moustache and a mounting pile of problems.

Barlow’s stage version gives him another one, asking him to sashay his way through Buchan’s book and Hitchcock’s film, leaving his three cohorts in comedy to play around 140 characters between them – and Amelia Donkor (from Hull Truck Theatre's The Culture earlier this year) handles only three of those!

Hannay must hot-foot it to Scotland by train, as murder suspect number one, when a mysterious, gun-firing German woman, Annabelle Schmidt (Donkor character number one), dies in his arms, after insisting on leaving the London Palladium by his side, insistent on imparting important information.

York Press:

Amelia Donkor's Pamela in The 39 Steps. Picture: Sam Taylor

On his fluttering jacket tail are policemen, secret agents and assorted women, all enacted by Niall Ransome's Man and Laura Kirman's Woman in a new, highly successful variation on the previous Man/Man combination. Ransome and Kirman's physical comedy skills from their allegiance with The Play That Goes Wrong mischief makers Mischief Theatre, allied to an endless array of accents, accrue ever more humorous effect.

Donkor's femme fatale Pamela and shy but far from retiring Scottish farmer's wife Margaret are a hit too, each struck by Hannay's dashing ways. Jenkins-Shaw's Hannay has even more of the air of John Cleese about him than past interpretations, but he is still as straight as his moustache, while upping the vocal exclamations and comedic carnage of having to tell a story with limited resources, improvising props on the hoof amid Hannay's need for urgency.

Robinson's company applies dazzling sleight of hand to Barlow's winning combination of verbal wit, theatrical anarchy, satirical savvy and visual delights, pulling off their Hitchcock homage without a hitch, North By North West pastiches et al. Their formula for success: one part taut thriller to one part comic release.

The 39 Steps, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on various dates in rep until August 23. Box office: 01723 370541 or at