REVIEW: Deathtrap by Ira Levin
Up for debate is whether Deathtrap is a serious drama with a touch of humour or a farce with a few scary bits. Getting it right cannot have been easy but Tim Kendrick’s direction produced a nicely balanced, fast paced thriller with enough comedy to lighten the mood.
Glen Marks’ assured portrayal of Sidney Bruhl played up the comedy of a well-known playwright whose talents deserted him many years ago, and keeps the audience guessing, at least early on, about whether he is as evil as he might appear. Nicola Dealtry gave a skilled performance as his wife, Myra Bruhl, and was an excellent foil for her protagonist’s machinations. Myra is in poor health and increasingly stressed by her husband’s plans to murder an up and coming playwright and steal his first play. With a murder acted out in front of her and the victim then reappearing, the shock induces a heart attack and Myra dies. Dealtry’s portrayal was sympathetic and engaging; it was a shame we had to lose her so early in the evening.
The playwright, Clifford Andersen, was played by Charlie Abrahams with enthusiasm, energy and confidence. The role called for fresh faced naivety masking an equal measure of callous determination and Abrahams had this down to a tee. With Clifford moving in with Sidney and taking on the pretence of his secretary, the relationship deteriorates, fuelled by the suspicions of neighbour, Helga Ten Dorp (Anne Hutchings), a renowned clairvoyant. This role could easily have been a caricature but Hutchings found a level that provided eccentricity without being over-played.
Plotting continues with more murders in the offing. A new character, Bruhl’s attorney (Mark Bostock), joins the action. Bostock lulled us convincingly into a mindset of straight-laced professional normality but as more blood is spilled he too is drawn into a fight for the rights to the play, and his own short-comings are also revealed. Bostock’s and Ten Dorp’s gamesmanship provided an entertaining end to the action.
Twists in the plot worked well and when coupled with good use of the stage, and a well-dressed set, the action moved along intriguingly. Tension was maintained, aided by creative use of sound and lighting. Of particular note were the excellent costumes which faithfully mirrored the period of the play. It was all murder most foul but with plenty of fun and games along the way.