Fans of the smash 70s TV series ‘Starsky and Hutch’ will be more used to seeing actor David Soul solving crime rather than committing it. But on the opening night of Deathtrap at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, the 58-year-old demonstrated his talents as poacher, rather than gamekeeper.
As Sidney Bruhl, Soul plays a fading American playwright living Connecticut, whose inspiration and ideas have dried up. But when student Clifford Anderson - played by Gerald Kyd of Casualty fame - posts him a brilliant script, the desperate writer sees a brilliant opportunity.
From then on, the plot takes more twists and turns than a helter-skelter, with a strong dose of murder and black humour thrown in for good measure.
Split into two acts, the first was pacey, devilishly clever. It boasted some excellent black humour and a smattering of cracking one-liners that prompted genuine belly laughs from the decent-sized audience.
In fact, the only spoilers in the first 75 minutes were two prolonged death scenes. A speedy death from a gunshot wound is fine, and a swift stabbing is also very acceptable. Simple ‘fall down and lie still on the floor’ type stuff.
But when it comes to long-winded demises like strangulation and heart attacks, one’s mind is drawn to scenes like Bottom’s slapstick portrayal of Pyramus’s death in the Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The blame, though, lies firmly in the script, not with the cast - how can any actor know what it’s truly like to suffer a drawn out and painful death?
Unfortunately, the second Act was somewhat less compelling and all rather too predictable. As for final scene, it seems playwright Ira Levin ran out of ideas - just like the lead character he created.
This touring production is only a few weeks into a six month run, and was a little unpolished in places. Soul’s rapid-fire, gruff America drawl was initially very difficult to understand, but his projection and performance improved markedly as his character became more animated. His numerous comedy lines were well delivered, and overall he gave a decent portrayal of a desperate and deranged man.
Kyd, pencil-thin and handsome, gave a mature and competent performance, and I know at least one person who’s bought a ticket on the strength of his dark looks alone. But both he and Stewart Bevan, who plays Bruhl’s attorney Porter Milgrim, struggled at times to maintain convincing American accents.
Susan Penhaligon did as well as could be expected in the limited role of Myra, Sidney’s rather pathetic but wealthy wife. And Becky Hindley gave an excellent performance as the Bruhl’s eccentric neighbour, Dutch psychic Helga ten Dorp.
Copyright J A Waddington 2002. For syndication rights, please email.
by Ira Levin