REVIEW: Deathtrap by Ira Levin @Theatre Royal

Broadway playwright Sidney Bruhl has had 11 years and 4 flops in a row and is getting desperate for another hit. So he thinks his dreams have come to true when aspiring first-time writer Clifford Anderson sends him what Sidney considers a sure-fire Broadway smash of a play called Deathtrap.

But Sidney played by ex- EastEnders and Holby City star Paul Bradley is actually embarking on a roller coaster nightmare where nothing and no-one are truly what they appear to be.

He and his stage wife Myra , played by another EastEnders star Jessie Wallace, become embroiled in a murder plot with more twists and turns than a Cornish country lane.

The young Clifford, played edgily by Sam Phillips, has murderous thoughts of his own and in its 2 hours on  stage Levin’s plot always keeps us guessing and at times gasping out loud with horror and surprise.

Director Adam Penfold creates an ever-suspenseful pace lightened only by the sardonic humour of the dialogue.

It would be wrong to give the detailed plot away but suffice it to say that sometimes people who are murdered don’t stay dead for long !

Levin has a masterful comic genius too and Beverley Klein steals the show at her every appearance as the scatty but totally accurate clairvoyant Helga ten Dorp.

Levin, much admired by the master storyteller Stephen King, is spot on with his one-liners – particularly given to Sidney. So much so that at times you wonder why the on-stage playwright cant write another hit. Considering Clifford’s manuscript he says “A gifted director couldn’t even harm it”  and contemplating his mental block he comments “nothing recedes like success “.

Designer Morgan Large has gone big as his name suggests with an enormous set, solid chunky and authentic – representing a converted beamed stable in the Colonial style.

As Sidney wryly observes “plays aren’t there till some asshole writes them”. Well thanks Mr Levin for bringing this masterpiece into life.

Deathtrap runs till Saturday at the Theatre Royal and then continues an extended UK tour. Catch it if you can – it will take your breath away.

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