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Sleuth – The Watermill, Newbury

Writer: Anthony Shaffer

Director: Jessica Swale

Reviewer: Tom Finch

[rating:3.5]

 

There’s something very fishy going on at The Watermill, Newbury at the moment. Anthony Shaffer’s psychological thriller is playing tricks on its audiences in more ways than one. It all starts innocently enough as prolific murder mystery writer Andrew Wyke finishes the final paragraph of his latest novel. Soon, his guest, a young man by the name of Milo Tindle arrives and it is soon revealed is not unknown to Wyke or indeed Wyke’s wife whom he has been conducting a lengthy affair with. What begins as a simple albeit awkward conversation becomes a vindictive game of cat and mouse where the stakes only get higher and the tricks become even more dastardly.

It is difficult to say too much about the story without giving anything away as there is a new twist at least every 10 minutes. Some are slightly easier to spot than others but it’s unlikely anyone will guess the final outcome from the opening scene.

Jessica Swale’s production does take a while to get going and it is not until the second half where the pace really racks up to the point of delirious frenzy one only experiences in a truly magnificent thriller. That said, Atlee and Spencer both give very strong performances which run the gamut of emotions and work hard to keep the audience guessing.

Much good use is made of Simon Kenny’s detailed set design which, as the rest of the play is, filled with hidden details and surprises. Isobel Waller-Bridge’s music is delightful, capturing the essence of the quintessential whodunit themes at incidental, ominous moments. However the well timed technical mastery of some moments was let down by a couple of weaker elements, in particular the final act by one of the characters looked a bit lame without the necessary special effects and for a little more effort could have looked much more impressive.

There is a sense that this production is trying and often succeeding to gloss over the flaws of the play. Some of the twists are too easy to spot making the intervening action something of a damp squib rather than being fully engaging but when the action does get going there is no stopping it. There are nice deceptive touches dotted around which add to the enjoyment of the whole thing.

This play is great fun and a wonderfully meta send up of classic whodunnits that will have you guessing until the very last moment.

 

Runs until 23rd March 2013 at The Watermill, Newbury.

 

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