Home » London Theatre Reviews » DEATHTRAP at the Mill at Sonning Theatre | Review

DEATHTRAP at the Mill at Sonning Theatre | Review

The set makes things a little too obvious, with axes, long knives and assorted blades on display in the study of Sidney Bruhl (Nick Waring). Then again, why else would one call a show Deathtrap? There are some plot twists along the way as he sets out to kill a new playwright and claim credit for the said playwright’s work. Sidney’s previous success has not been matched by his more recent works, and he has writer’s block. His wife Myra (Emily Raymond) is not in the best of health, and it can be reasonably assumed that her reservations about her husband’s plans are not exactly helping. The audience does not, alas, get to see that much of Myra as the play’s title justifies itself even before the interval.

Deathtrap - Emily Raymond. Photo Andreas Lambis.
Deathtrap – Emily Raymond. Photo Andreas Lambis.

By way of some sort of masterclass Sidney did for younger playwrights, he has come into contact with several would-be writers. Particularly keen is Clifford Anderson (George Watkins), who accepts an invitation from Sidney to come over, for them to talk through his (Clifford’s) play and make improvements to it. Set in 1979, Sidney and Clifford work on Smith Corona typewriters, the manufacturer being name-dropped on several occasions. Much of the play’s humour came from a psychic neighbour, Helga ten Dorp (Issy van Randywck) who, perhaps predictably in itself, makes assertions about the future that don’t quite turn out the way she believed they would. Completing the set of characters is Porter Milgrim (Philip Childs), an attorney who seems above board, but it later transpires he too has his own agenda.

It is, for anybody that spends sufficient time pondering on it, a rather contrived narrative, but it seems to know it is, with references to a single set, five-character ‘thriller’ (inverted commas mine) that is, in the minds of most of the characters, going to be a hit. Referring to itself as a play within a play, there is, at least in this version, an unsubtle reference to an idea that, Sidney concludes, wouldn’t work, “even in a dinner theatre”, a line which went down well with the audience at this dinner theatre venue. Evening performances here don’t start until 8:15pm, but there’s a buffet meal to enjoy before that, as the venue takes very seriously the idea that the theatrical experience begins as soon as patrons enter the theatre building. (Okay, so I am somewhat biased when it comes to the food offerings there – it is a good reason to keep going back.)

The play suits the relatively small stage space well, and while I was personally more stunned by the audience’s reaction to key moments in the story rather than the moments themselves, the play is highly observant in the script’s remarks about the theatre industry and what happens when the lines between fiction and fact become blurred. The costumes (Natalie Titchener) are very suitable for the time period of the production. But I found the first half more engaging than the second – the former ended with a ‘wow’ moment that wasn’t matched by anything in the latter. All the same, it’s an enjoyable and well-paced production, not a minute longer than it needs to be.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Sidney Bruhl, a once-successful playwright now struggling for a hit, has invited the younger and aspiring writer, Clifford Andersen, to his home to discuss Clifford’s brilliant new play. However, as the night unfolds, it becomes clear that things are not as they seem. As tension builds and dark secrets are revealed, Sidney and Clifford become embroiled in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Nerve jangling thriller DEATHTRAP never fails to keep audiences on the edge of their seats with unexpected plot twists, whip-smart dialogue, and tons of suspense. It is a thrilling theatrical experience that will leave you guessing until the very end.
Creative Team:
Director Tam Williams
Set Designer Michael Holt
Costume Designer Natalie Titchener
Lighting Designer Graham Weymouth
Sound Design Technical Team at The Mill at Sonning
Fight Director Jonathan Leverett
Casting Kate Plantin CDG

DEATHTRAP
Directed by Tam Williams
The Mill at Sonning Theatre
Sonning Eye
Reading, RG4 6TY
February 8 – March 30 2024
https://millatsonning.com/

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