IF there’s one thing we like to while away the long winter nights, it’s a good murder. And since we are engaged with the subject at one remove – on the television screen or across the footlights – we are quite happy to have a laugh as well.
So Ira Levin’s comedy thriller Deathtrap hits the spot very nicely with an audience that admires a well-constructed play, with several plot twists, some shocks and a lot of laughs. And dead bodies … how many? The audience must decide that for themselves!
Levin, best known for Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys From Brazil was a talented writer who explored the occult, real-life horror and chilling sci-fi satire on the battle of the sexes. In Deathtrap, he tackled the classic theme of the perfect murder.
Deathtrap is a play that Sidney Bruhl (Kim Wall), a once-successful playwright with writer’s block wishes he has written. But it has been written by talented newcomer Clifford Anderson (Sam Phillipson), a student at one of Bruhl’s seminars. It may be a Broadway hit and make a fortune for the writer.
But perhaps it is a script for something rather more sinister …
When Bruhl invites the young writer to come and discuss his script, Myra Bruhl (Lesley Vickerage) is worried that her husband – depressed by his recent lack of inspiration and obsessed with his collection of antique weapons – may have something more than a theatrical collaboration in mind.
A Swedish psychic (hilariously played by Beverley Klein) senses murder and pain all around and Bruhl’s solicitor Porter Milgrim (Julien Ball) is worried about his client’s finances – but is anybody what they seem?
Salisbury Playhouse opens the 2016 season with a cracking production of this clever play. Director Adam Penford gets first rate performances from his cast of five, and the use of clips from famous movie thrillers is very effective.
Deathtrap is undoubtedly well constructed and at times it is very funny. But there is a chilly vacuum at its centre, and it is impossible to care for any of the characters. That said, the large audience on the night I saw it were evidently enjoying themselves, gasping at all the right places, and genuinely shocked and surprised by the twist at the end of the first act.