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Review: DEATHTRAP (The Mill at Sonning)

Review by Daz Gale

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

A quick browse through this website will make it obvious how much I love my visits to The Mill at Sonning – the theatre outside of London I visit the most, it is always a gorgeous evening with the promise of a stunning meal as well as a (hopefully) fabulous show to enjoy. For my first visit there this year, it is a new production of the much-loved thriller DEATHTRAP. But would this production be able to murder in its execution of the story?



DEATHTRAP premiered on Broadway in 1978 where it ran for four years. Its West End premiere took place in the same year, with a film adaptation released in 1982. This play-within-a-play sees playwright Sidney Bruhl struggling with his career after a series of flops. When he receives a script for a play called ‘Deathtrap’ from his student, Clifford Anderson, he plots with his wife to kill Clifford and pass the play off as his own. That’s not where the story ends but to say any more would be a huge spoiler. Let’s just say all is not as it seems, and this is one play where you are always left questioning whose motives are genuine and who really is pulling the strings.

 

Ira Levin’s writing creates a whirlwind of a story. What starts as a fairly safe story takes an unexpected turn with each scene throughout the play proving distinctly different. Levin’s writing creates multiple layers which require you to think if what characters are saying is completely true in the hopes of being one step ahead of the next twist, not that you will always be able to, of course. Witty in places and with a strong structure, it just falls short of absurdity, impressing with its ability to carve out a coherent story. Certain moments of dialogue show it up for being a product of its time with some outdated language which wouldn’t have detracted from the story at all if they had been amended or cut at all.



Tam Williams writes in the show programme about getting to know DEATHTRAP well as a kid with a family connection to it. This affinity to the material is shown in his direction, ensuring Levin’s writing plays out with the desired impact and giving each of the five characters plenty to work with. Michael Holt’s set design does a great job of filling the cosy space of The Mill at Sonning to recreate Bruhl’s apartment with fine detail, and some humorous nods in show posters adorning the walls.

 

Nick Waring gives a commanding turn as Sidney Bruhl, perfectly channeling the tortured nature that has come from dwindling success and leaving an uncertain and dangerous streak to the character. Nick portrays these conflicted themes in fantastic fashion in a performance that at times is appropriately overstated and dramatic. If Nick’s portrayal is overstated, Emily Raymond is on another level as his wife Myra. In a performance that feels over-the-top, her differing personality gives a great contrast to him and an exciting dynamic in general.



Philip Childs’ time on stage is all too brief as Porter Milgrim, but distinctly memorable. George Watkins stuns in his time as Clifford Anderson, showing great versatility in his choices and wowing at every turn. The cast is completed by Issy Van Randwyck, giving a bit of comic relief in the overblown psychic Helga ten Dorp. Never moments away from the next laugh when she is on stage, her characterisation is second to none and left me longing for more from her in her underused performances.

 

If a certain type of theatregoer loves a trip to The Mill at Sonning, DEATHTRAP is the perfect production for them, but also accessible and enjoyable for those who may not be their usual crowd. A thrilling story, brilliantly realised in this new production and performed by a wonderful cast. There is always a certain kind of quality you expect with any show at The Mill at Sonning and DEATHTRAP doesn’t disappoint in that respect. Well worthy of a short trip outside of London but just be careful who you befriend seeing this story or you may find yourself not using your return ticket.



DEATHTRAP plays at the Mill at Sonning until 30th March. Tickets from http://www.millatsonning.com/

 

Photos by Andreas Lambis

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