Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Sleuth at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 24 Apr, 2024
Updated on: 26 Apr, 2024

By Ferenc Hepp

Sleuth, the timeless thriller written by Anthony Shaffer, has returned to the stage in a new rendition at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, courtesy of Bill Kenwright Ltd.

Pictures show Neil McDermott and Todd Boyce in Sleuth. Photos by Jack Merriman.

This production, starring Todd Boyce (Coronation Street) and Neil McDermott (EastEnders and Doctor Who), attempts to recreate the gripping tension and psychological intrigue that made the play a sensation during its original 12-year run in London and New York.

While the premise and potential for suspense are present, this rendition falls short of delivering the full dramatic punch.

Set in a Wiltshire manor house, the realistic stage design works well, evoking the atmosphere of wealth and intrigue. However, the rather overly enthusiastic haze effect at the outset seems more distracting than atmospheric.

As the plot unfolds, we are introduced to Andrew Wyke (Boyce), a rich upper-class figure, and Milo Tindle (McDermott) a character entangled in Wyke’s marital affairs.

Unfortunately, the characters are presented in a somewhat caricatured manner, with Wyke’s aristocratic persona sharply contrasted against Tindle’s working-class origins.

The outfits and accents are too obvious, failing to add depth to their portrayals. As a result of this, Wyke’s classic lines such as “She’s mine, whether I like it or not!” and “Sex is the game, marriage is the penalty,” get somewhat lost.

The central conflict, fuelled by Wyke’s manipulative schemes, should drive the audience to the edge of their seats with its twists and turns, however, the portrayal of the protagonists lacks depth, resulting in a one-dimensional tone that fails to fully engage the audience in the drama and tension.

Despite the potential for heightened emotion, both Boyce and McDermott’s performances fall short of delivering the necessary intensity.

The shortcomings continue into Act Two, and without giving anything away, the scenes involving Inspector Doppler are very disappointing, with a reveal that should have been a complete surprise to someone like me, who has not seen the film or the play before, becomes farcical and totally predictable, which is a shame. 

The direction by Rachel Kavanaugh falls short of doing justice to Shaffer’s quality script. There are some good moments, but this production fails to deliver the dramatic thriller experience promised and makes me want to watch the film version, starring Laurence Olivier and Michae Caine, to get the experience I should have encountered as a member of the audience at the theatre.

Despite its flaws, it serves as a reminder of the enduring appeal of Shaffer’s work and the challenges of bringing such a thriller to life on stage.

Sleuth runs until Saturday, April 27 and tickets are available via or 01483 440000.


Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *