Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Deathtrap At The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 6 Oct, 2017
Updated on: 6 Oct, 2017

By Ference Hepp

Having taken the usual summer break from live shows, the autumn season at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre kicks off literally with a bang with Ira Levin’s Deathtrap.

Deathtrap is at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre until Saturday, October 7.

The notion is simple; two acts, five characters and one setting. However, the plot offers up countless twists and having seen numerous thrillers, I must admit I was wrong when trying to guess the outcome during the interval.

It holds the record for the longest running comedy thriller on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award for best play in 1978. The current Salisbury Playhouse Production tour is about half way through its journey round the country and is due to continue until November 18, ending up at the Richmond Theatre.

The setting is Sidney and Myra Bruhl’s colonial, beamed living room in a rural location in Connecticut, and Morgan Large’s design to reflect this is mightily impressive with a lot of things to look at.

The familiar faces of Paul Bradley (Holby City and EastEnders) and Jessie Wallace (EastEnders) take on the roles of Mr and Mrs Bruhl.

I was not totally convinced with the American accents to start with, but it became more and more comfortable from both actors as the show progressed.

Soon, the character of Clifford Anderson (Sam Phillips) is introduced, as the author of the thriller, Deathtrap, which is Sidney is keen to ‘acquire’ due to a recent writer’s block, by killing Clifford … or is he?

At one point Clifford states: “You know, this could be a good thriller,” which sums up the play within the play rather well.

There are three scenes in each act and the scene changes are cleverly disguised by a screen being lowered, showing short clips of classic thrillers from the recent era.

Still in Act One we meet the neighbour; a crazy psychic woman called Helga ten Dorp, played by Beverley Klein. She goes on to predict the majority of what is about to happen (“There’s death in this room”) and seems completely possessed most of the time.

Klein’s performance certainly attracts the majority of the laughs from the audience, however, the characterisation of Helga is often too over the top, more for effect than for artistic reasons. The final character to appear is Sidney’s attorney, Porter Milgrim, played by Julien Ball, who has the perfect appearance to portray this.

Thrillers on stage are not easy to produce, but the director, Adam Penford, does a good job with this talented cast.

It is interesting to watch the relationship between Bradley and the other four characters through the play; especially gripped by the developments between Bradley and Phillips, and even a flavour of what might happen if the action continued with Klein and Ball having the final word.

This is not just a comedy thriller, more of a thriller farce. Occasionally predictable, but it will still have you jumping out of your seat at regular intervals alongside the humour and the laughter.

Deathtrap runs until Saturday, October 7, and tickets are available via the website: or by calling the box office on 01483 440000.

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