Touring – reviewed at Theatre Royal Brighton
Guest reviewer: Melodie Hornett
Deathtrap felt a little unsteady from the offset. It opened with an unnecessary and horrifically loud sound effect. There were moments when I felt unsure of the intention – comedic or serious. The play itself is interesting and able to hold an audience throughout thanks to its plot twists and unexpected turns but there is a certain degree of repetition when the characters recount the events just passed. Sometimes, however, there seem to be too many twists, making it a little predictable. The very final scene feels unnecessary and unlikely, however, the majority of the play works well and is highly enjoyable.
I would like to have seen stronger US dialects from the two leads as this was rather distracting. Particularly from Paul Bradley, whose performance as playwright Sidney Bruhl was stellar, yet made unconvincing at times through slipping in and out of accent. His energy combined with his dedication to the character kept his performance afloat and he remained very enjoyable. The audience could clearly connect with his character and he is well cast in the role.
This is somewhat of a mismatch with Jessie Wallace. She made a good effort in the role of Myra and showed she is capable of moving away from the familiar typecasting, however, there was little connection on-stage between her and Bradley. She also felt detached from the audience, not really allowing us an opportunity to empathise with her. I feel she could have been a little braver with her performance and created a stronger character. She wasn’t greatly missed during Act 2 when the character is absent.
Sam Phillips’ portrayal of Clifford was well acted and demonstrated appropriate naivety in places. He shows great commitment to the role and is able to flick back and forth between alter-ego’s effectively. He shone out as particularly capable in this role and was well cast.
Julien Ball as Porter is unfortunately, unmemorable. He could have made this character much more commanding even verging on sinister, yet came across as weak.
The star performance without doubt came from Beverly Klein, who’s obvious stage background showed real command of the audience and the space she worked in. Great characterisation of Helga ten Dorp, perfect comedic timing throughout, a real joy to watch. She provided light-relief from some of the heavier scenes that was much needed.
Technically, the sound effects were far too loud in several places and music/sound used for dramatic effect seemed cheap, uninventive and predictable. The set looked great, was functional with the appropriate weapons clearly on display and some clever trickery used during fight scenes. Interesting use of thriller film clips between scenes, with a slightly kitsch opening picture frame, concealing the projector. A little more care needed to be taken with masking on-stage trickery, such as hiding of the dagger thrown across the stage.
Overall I did enjoy the piece, however felt that the casting of television celebrities in the majority of roles in Deathtrap was a mistake. I would recommend watching, turn a blind eye to some of the details mentioned above and you won’t fail to enjoy.