Deathtrap – Mercury Theatre, Colchester

Deathtrap – Mercury Theatre, Colchester

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This thriller ran on Broadway successfully for many years and is a great piece of theatrical writing which keeps the audience on its toes throughout, following the many plot twists and turns. I remember seeing this for the first time many years ago and as then, the story offers some great surprises.
With just 5 characters and one set – it tells the story of writer Sidney Bruhl, who receives a script from one of his former students and discusses the idea with his wife Myra, that he could kill its writer and assume the play as his own.  Myra is concerned that in his desperation for another hit he will see this through, so when he invites the young writer to visit with the only copy of the play, well tensions rise! Add a famous mystic staying in a neighbouring cottage who can foresee the future and Sidney’s attorney who are all thrown in together for a mix of murder and mystery.
The play opens with a large projection screen which is used during scene changes to play snippets from famous thrillers adding to the overall effect of the piece. This along with the sound effects was very effective.
Paul Bradley gave an exuberant performance as Sidney Bruhl, the character was immediately likable and although on occasion a little too contrived he led the play with confidence.
Jesse Wallace was harder to watch partially because she seemed to regularly upstage herself making it challenging to connect with someone whose emotions and facial expressions are difficult to see. However, she seemed to master the American accent better than her husband and had a very composed stage presence throughout.
Sam Phillips as young writer Clifford Anderson was a delight to watch on stage giving the play the thriller aspect and action it needs.  He gave an innocence to the character which allowed the audience to be drawn in making the later acts of violence and twists in the plot so delectable.
Bruhl’s attorney Porter Milgrim was well played with an understated air by Julien Ball.  However the tour de force of the piece was Beverley Klein as Helga ten Dorp. Utterly ‘Over The Top’, with fabulous body language and great timing she charges into the performance giving it energy and passion and some hilarious moments to boot.
There was one minor issue with last nights production, in that the reflections on the patio doors gave us great views of the backstage crew moving around and even cast members changing shirts etc. I am sure that only a small proportion of the audience could see it but it was still somewhat distracting and disappointing in a professional production of this calibre.
While some sections of the play felt a little lost and lacking direction it also gave some great moments keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.  Ira Levin’s play is a great thriller and audiences around the UK will continue to enjoy this tour as it continues on to Birmingham and Richmond.
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