Skip to main content

Deathtrap


Dundee Rep
Four stars

If there was any justice, what happens in play-writing class should stay in play-writing class in Ira Levin’s 1970s comedy thriller, revived here by Dundee Rep Ensemble in Johnny McKnight’s forensically dissected production. There’s no chance of that, alas, in veteran pulp thriller hack Sidney Bruhl and his young charge Clifford Anderson’s world. Sidney has lost his mojo following a series of flops, but when he reads a play called Deathtrap by wannabe genius Clifford, he smells a hit. With wife and apparent accomplice Myra in tow, Sidney concocts a half-jokey plot to kill the kid and pass off his play as his own.

What follows as Levin’s yarn twists and turns its way towards a not entirely inevitable denouement is so darn knowing it practically winks at an audience who lap up this sort of thing. Like an extended episode of Inside No 9 as directed by Ryan Murphy, Levin’s post-modern high-jinks are plotted like a well-oiled if somewhat eccentric machine programmed to surprise the audience and raise the stakes as high as you like.

With type-writers to the fore, Kenny Miller’s set is a grandiloquent 3D masterpiece of retro-vintage chic that becomes the suitably dramatic backdrop for the scene of a crime that’s never over-done by McKnight. As Sidney, Lewis Howden is an avuncular but sly old fox, with Emily Winter’s Myra egging him on like a Stepford Lady Macbeth. Thomas England’s preppy Clifford may be too smart for his own good, but it’s left to Ewan Donald’s oily lawyer to count the cost. The only person in the room who can really see what’s coming next is Swedish psychic next door Helga ten Dorp, here given an eye-popping cameo by a deadpan Irene Macdougall in an obsessive piece of psychotic largesse.

The Herald, February 23rd 2018

ends


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …

High Society

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

The stage looks gift-wrapped with a sparklingly expensive bow at the opening of John Durnin's revival of Arthur Kopit's Cole Porter based musical that reinvigorates the starry 1956 film where it originated. With the film itself drawing from Philip Barry's play, The Philadelphia Story, Kopit and Porter's depiction of the Long Island jet set says much about over-privileged party people, but retains a fizz that keeps it going till all passion is seemingly spent.
The action is based around the forthcoming nuptials of drop-dead gorgeous society gal and serial bride, Tracy Lord. With her daddy having run off with a show-girl, and ex beau next door CK Dexter Haven set sail for other shores, Tracy settles for George, a stinking rich would-be president for whom stupidity, as someone observes, sits on his shoulders like a crown. Enter Tracy's match-making kid sister Dinah and a pair of reporters for a trashy scandal sheet looking to stit…