Dada Masilo

Theatre Review: Sleuth

15 September 16 words: Ian Douglas
Can you tell the clues from the red herrings in this murder mystery?
Sleuth

Sleuth

This celebrated play by Anthony Schaffer is a whodunit, a comedy, and a satire on middle England. You may have seen the famous movie with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. You haven’t? Do: it’s one of Sir Larry’s greatest ventures into camp. But first, see this excellent live version. 

Andrew Wyke is the world-renowned author of detective mysteries. His fictional detective, St John Merryweather, is up there with Hercule Poirot and Father Brown.

Like any true blooded Englishman, Wyke’s home is his castle, literally in his case. And it’s exactly the kind of stately pile where you’d expect to find the body in the library. The mansion is fitted with puzzles, riddles, gadgets, tricks, and devices, from a laughing sailor to a phone disguised as a bird box. All manifestations of his obsession with game playing.

So why does he invite a commoner like Milo Tindle to his crooked house? Tindle is a young, handsome, half Jewish, half Italian immigrant. He is also Andrew’s nemesis. You see, Milo is Mrs Wyke’s lover, the virile bull to Andrews aging cuckold. Andrew lures Milo in with the promise of an amicable divorce. The plot thickens. He persuades Milo to play a very unusual game. But could he be leading Milo into a mousetrap?

The plot is indeed thick. As thick as cold rice pudding. Twist and counter twist follow in swift succession. A murder is announced. There is a big reveal, a treasure hunt and red herrings. 

Sleuth

Miles Richardson is spot on as the egotistical but brilliant novelist Andrew Wyke. James Alexandrou proves there is a lot more to his talent than his role on EastEnders, while Cliff Williams gives a splendid performance as Inspector Doppler, a kind of a West Country Colombo. His plodding but dogged portrayal is charming to watch. And look out for Oli Smith and Ed Boot as the local constabulary - minor roles, but they might surprise you.

Five stars to the set design team. Wyke’s home is fully automated. A flick of a switch and the walls whoosh up. The staircase spins round to reveal a hidden safe or a dressing-up room. Filmed scenes are put to good use, depicting the outdoor action: someone in fancy dress is in the garden and attempting a break in.

Is there a serious note to the fun? Do we feel sympathy for Wyke, losing his wife to a youthful rival? Or is he the epitome of middle class snobbery and xenophobia, dismissing Tindle as a ‘wop’ and worse? You decide. Most importantly, do you have what it takes to be a sleuth? Can you guess who will win this treacherous battle of wits?    

Nottingham Playhouse, Friday 9 to Saturday 24 September 2016. 

Nottingham Playhouse website

Ian Douglas' website