Since 2015, LRP have brought an annual season of professional productions to Boscombe’s Shelley Theatre. With the latter yet to reopen and live theatre treading carefully, a change of venue and a single production mark their return to the Bournemouth area. Deathtrap, still holding the record for longest-running comedy-thriller on Broadway, proves an excellent choice for this long-awaited return.
Set in 1978, in the central character’s study at his home in Connecticut, at the heart of the drama is successful playwright Sidney Bruhl, now artistically and financially becalmed amid box office failures and writer’s block. Having received for his critical assessment a script written by a former student, he shares his initial thoughts with wife Myra, then rings to invite the young, aspiring playwright over to discuss possible improvements: the script, like Levin’s play itself, is entitled Deathtrap, uses a single set and involves just five characters.
[I]t is … a superbly crafted, absorbing and entertaining piece of theatre. Vernon Thompson’s skilful direction weaves a tangled mesh of the elements that characterise such plays: plot twists, turns and reversals; murder; deception; and dialogue and action that might or might not be exactly what they seem. Pace, timing and the balance between elements of comedy and thriller, with dashes of melodrama and revenge tragedy, are all very well judged, providing a highly enjoyable evening’s theatre.
As Myra Bruhl, Victoria Porter is an always convincing foil to Al Wadlan’s Sidney, whether their interaction is harmonious or discordant. Equally, Claire Fisher as psychic neighbour Helga Ten Dorp and Richard Mullins as Bruhl’s lawyer Porter Milgrim are quick to establish the distinctive identities of their characters, providing splendid foils for Bruhl in particular.
Allocation of and distancing between occupied seats is skilfully managed and it was clear, not least from the laughter and the applause, how much the first-night audience enjoyed the performance.
Whether you have missed regular pre-Covid theatre trips or are in the mood to add the delights of live theatre to your life, if you possibly can, book yourself a ticket and get along to the Tivoli Theatre for a thoroughly enjoyable production.
Extract from review by Phil Vivian for SceneOne+ 29th July 2021