The other night I had tickets to see Deathtrap at the Noel Coward Theatre. The show is billed as a “comedy thriller”, which is almost oxymoronic, so I was more than a little bit apprehensive when I entered the theatre.
Deathtrap follows the story of Sydney Bruhl (Simon Russell Beale), a playwrite who hasn’t created a hit show in the past few years. He meets a younger amateur playwrite, Clifford Anderson (Jonathan Groff). At the beginning of the show Sydney and his wife plot to murder the young playwrite, knowing that his creation, Deathtrap, hasn’t been seen or spoken about to anyone else. Unfortunately that’s all I can tell you – the programme says so :-p
The story unfolds in such a way that it makes it impossible to fully settle down and watch, purely because every time you think you know where the plot is going it switches right round in front of you. It s a very cleverly written play, with the dialogue cleverly intertwined with the action to keep you guessing. One of the things I loved about the show is that there is always some clue to what will happen next, but the context is such that you manage to convince yourself it won’t happen… Only for it to happen mere moments later!
The play makes numerous references to itself, talking about what a good play “Deathtrap” would make. I particularly liked the reference to how much could be made not only from the show, but from the souvenir T-shirts also! It also references the fact that the play would make a great film – which it is for those who are not in the know.
Simon Russell Beale has you captivated from the minute he appears on the stage. It is no secret that he is a well respected actor, but in this particular role his comedy timing as well as his acting is perfection. He switches very easy from bored, to murderous and back again almost without a thought. Jonathan Groff easily leads you to believe the naivety of his character, and he too switches very quickly from a young playwrite who knows nothing, to a very savvy young man.
Claire Skinner plays Sydney’s wife, Myra, and is a joy to watch. She plays the character energetically and you definitely feel her horror at her husband’s murderous thoughts. I also very much enjoyed Estelle Parsons as token comedy character Helga Ten Dorp – I don’t think I have laughed so much at one character for a while.
All in all I thought it was a fantastic show and not at all what I expected. Despite the idea of a comedy thriller being somewhat odd, it works very well. I definitely jumped a number of times and even having read the plot beforehand, I was suprised by everything that happened.
If you have a free night, definitely take yourself down to the Noel Coward and grab some tickets for this excellent thriller.