As for the comedy element, well even the would-be shocking one liners managed to be funny (not least the comment ‘but it’s like Piccadilly Circus out there!’) and Hannay himself, played by John Hopkins, provided much humour in his anti-hero outlook on life. The theatre audience, as in the film, came to have a crucial role in the scenes set at the London Palladium for Mr Memory's show, where we discover that the man with his capacity to recall any fact is being used by The 39 Steps spy organisation to smuggle highly confidential secrets out of England. Whilst Hitchcock was able to exploit the film medium to make the cinematic audience merge with another audience to a show constructed by the director, on stage the imaginative use of spectator boxes on opposing sides ensured that we were as much at the Palladium show as at the Criterion production.
The 39 Steps is currently showing at The Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly
To see Hitchcock's famous opening to the original 1935 film: