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Mortimer Dramatic Society - Deathtrap

17th to 18th October and 24th to 25th October 2014

Review from Newbury Theatre.

Ira Levin wrote Deathtrap in 1978. It’s a thriller with many twists and surprises, and Mortimer Dramatic Society’s production relocates it from Connecticut to Berkshire – this not only works well but also avoids having to master American accents.

It’s a play about a play, with established playwright Sydney suffering from writer’s block and getting short of money. Unknown new playwright Clifford sends Sydney a copy of his play Deathtrap, which Sydney sees as a work of genius. To the alarm of his wife Myra, Sydney hatches a plot which he hopes will solve his money problems…

Sydney (Darren Reed) is confident and urbane, and clearly a nasty piece of work. This was a strong performance in one of the two main roles. Ian Beavon was the nerdy Clifford – a performance marred on the opening night by stumbling over lines and needing prompts. He wasn’t the only one; it’s hugely distracting for the audience and slows the whole pace down.

Melanie Sherwood, as the nervy Myra, was a bit too nervy for my liking, with lots of hand-wringing. Mary Auckland was convincingly single-minded as the psychic Helga, providing some nice comic moments, and James Burton Stewart was suave and assured as Porter the solicitor.

It was a great set, with lots of weapons and posters on the wall, a big bookcase and an open fire, all well-furnished for the period, but oh dear, the desk! I can believe it’s difficult (and expensive) to find a convincing 'Victorian' desk, but in that case it’s better to cut Porter’s line "What a beauty!"

Director Tom Shorrock made good use of the space and had the characters well differentiated.

An intriguing play with some good acting, but marred by too many prompts.


Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

The play's the thing

Mortimer Dramatic Society: Deathtrap, at Mortimer Village Hall, on Saturday, October 25

The longest-running thriller with more twists and turns than a Berkshire country road is, of course, Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, with 62 years in London's West End and counting. After that there was the unusual Sleuth, and Ira Levin's Deathtrap, with more red herrings than a fishmonger's freezer and holds the record as the longest running thriller on New York Broadway.

A play within a play, it starts out with a bold plot by once-successful Sidney Bruhl and his wife Myra planning to lure a young playwright to their home, murder him and claim his play as the work of Bruhl.

Playing it fairly straight ahead in this MDS production directed by Tom Shorrock, Darren Reed portrayed Sidney well as a scheming, sarcastic character, but might have brought out more of his effeminate side to indicate his actions.

Ian Beavon played Clifford Anderson as quiet and calm, but with an appropriate underlying strength, although he too could have emphasised the gay side of his nature more. Melanie Sherwood as Sidney's wife Myra was twitchy and nervous from the beginning, which did rather diminish the point at which she needed to display those characteristics in abundance.

Mary Auckland portrayed psychic Helga Ten Dorp with a strong foreign accent and James Burton Stewart was very effective as Sidney's attorney.

There was a minimum of movement by the actors and the storm scene could have been more dramatically presented, although the two male leads worked well together in the second act to indicate what was happening.

The play is a very good, complex thriller which needs a lot of hard work to emphasise all the twists and turns of the plot.