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A CurtainUp London Review
Sidney's American wife Myra (Claire Skinner) has been subsidising Sidney's lifestyle in the absence of great royalties now he has writer's block. Whereas Myra is positive and upbeat in an almost sickly way, Sidney is jealous and cynical. His sardonic humour is delivered impeccably by Russell Beale.
There are more twists to the plot than dead ends in Hampton Court's famous maze and critics have been instructed not to reveal them for fear of spoiling the fun for future audiences, not that this critic ever does! Deathtrap, although by Ira Levin, the author of Rosemary's Baby and A Kiss Before Dying, is shamelessly one of the follow up clones prompted by the success of Peter Shaffer's Sleuth in 1972. The late seventies setting has largely been ignored in Matthew Warchus' production so that the dress is nonspecific.
Simon Russell Beale is always a delight to watch, his idiosyncratic delivery a joy, and although there are many witty one liners in Levin's script, for my money the whole play did not hang together well. True, at one point I near jumped out of my skin, but overall the plot does not grip or scare. It isn't all that comic either. Claire Skinner, a charming actress seems miscast as the American wife and the other female part, that of a dotty psychic Helga ten Dorp (Estelle Parson) is totally non credible. In fact I think that this lack of suspension of disbelief is the main problem. If you cannot believe what is happening onstage, how can you get involved or care about the characters?
The arrival of Terry Beaver as a nervous lawyer, Porter Milgrim, brings some comic relief. Jonathan Groff of Glee is the good looking draw
Rob Howell's set is beautifully detailed with many antique and modern murder weapons and handcuffs framed on the walls. Hugh Vanstone's lighting shifts too make the barn look mysterious and even sinister. I liked too Gary Yershon's atmospheric music. Matthew Warchus has a very successful track record of West End hits but the Deathtrap fireworks fail to ignite.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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