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Reviews: Live Shows

Fri 24 Sep, 2010
By Robert Ingham

No stone is left unturned and no loose ends are left bare in this unforgettable 2 hours of murder, mystery and mayhem

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Become Ensnared in the Deathtrap

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An ageing playwright suffering from writer’s block. A scheming wife who will do anything to support her husband. A young, aspiring and talented playwright. And a killer script.

Put these ingredients together and you have “Deathtrap”, the rather brilliant play at the Noel Coward Theatre.

Penned by Ira Levin, who also wrote “The Stepford Wives” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, it tells the story of Sydney (Simon Russell Beale), trying to find inspiration for his next play but finding none. That is, until “Deathtrap” is sent to him by Clifford (Glee’s Jonathan Groff) who he taught the year before. Knowing this script is going to be enormously successful, he concocts a plan with his wife Myra (Outnumbered’s Claire Skinner) to bring him to their secluded house, murder him and then pass the play off as his own.

A foolproof plan – if only they didn’t have the psychic staying next door, Helga (Roseanne’s, Estelle Parsons).

To say anymore would be an insult to Ira’s well crafted and witty master class in how a script should be written. Every character is expertly painted, every line superbly formed. No stone is left unturned and no loose ends are left bare in this unforgettable 2 hours of murder, mystery and mayhem.

As you step into the theatre you are invited into the playwright’s home, a converted stable, with a vast array of weapons decorating the walls and ceiling, some from past shows, some acquired from stars of the past. And this is where you stay throughout, “Deathtrap” playing out within those four walls, where darkness lurks in corners and a storm crashes outside. It’s all meant to claw in the claustrophobia, and this is where the Noel Coward theatre is not the best of venue choice. It works, but it would suit a venue like the Fortune Theatre, where “The Woman In Black” is playing. Nevertheless, it doesn’t detract from the tension that builds throughout to the cracking end.

Each member of the cast give strong performances, even if it does take a while for you to settle on Estelle Parson’s German accent, and it is ably directed by Matthew Warchus. The format, a play within a play, is nothing new these days but when it first came out it was something fresh, new and vibrantly shocking, and if the audience’s reactions were anything to go by, it hasn’t lost any of that charm and shock factor.

This is one play you must see and whilst it doesn’t get full marks it comes extremely close, thanks to having all the right teams working on it, from director, to designers, to sound and lighting – but especially for Ira Levin, who’s imagination and desire to create the perfect play comes to life once more.

“Deathtrap” is playing at the Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4AU until January 22nd 2011. Buy tickets here


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