49 Steps

Site Specific  

Dance Base, Edinburgh
25 – 29 August 2009

It is Scotland, an international conference, possibly a peace conference, is taking place just beneath the famous castle. Media interest is high, delegates are quizzed on their way in. Security is tight, a woman withan urgent message is repelled, but jumps the service lift and disguises her as a member of the catering team.

Meanwhile, a man sneaks in through a fire exit. He sets his breifcase down at a table and quizes two old diplomats sat chatting.

“Gluten free canapés for the Manx delegation” the fake waitress asks “there is no Manx delegation”. Our two main protagonists collide in the corridor, briefcase and canapés fly. She overhears delegates talk, they mention The Manx Delegate, she recalls talk of the 49 Steps and runs to the roof.

He has sprayed paint over the security camera and assembled a sniper’s rifle from the briefcase.

She has run to the top floor, but by this route it’s only 21 steps. Across the roof she sees the assassin poised but a locked door bars her way. The professor is making her way to the platform to speak. “Wait!”. Rachel Hannay is held and as she tells her story word comes through of an unconscious waitress in a lift. Rachel sheds her jacket and flees through the conference room. She pounds up the stairs, the professor decides to take the stage, looking down from the 49th step through the conference hall’s glass roof the sniper nearly has the professor in his sights. Rachel arrives, there is a tussle, the rifle flies, she has everything under control when security plods into view.

The Scotish location, presence of an international delegation (in real lift the British Council Showcase) and appropriate title caused us to use John Buchan’s adventure novel, The 39 Steps, as inspiration for this third edition of the Steps Series. Our choice of 49 Steps as the title became shockingly apt as we discovered there are precisely 49 steps from the entrance of dance base to its top most step looking down into the main dance studio. The show was a challenge to make given the venue’s unusual architecture and the many other demands placed upon the venue, but we were pleased with the result – a piece that is particularly challenging on its audiences powers of deduction.


Devised by Simon Ford, Craig Stephens and James Yarker
With photography by Jannica Honey