Review: Sleuth, Theatre Royal Windsor

Todd Boyce and Neil McDermott deliver every twist and turn of the slippery Sleuth at the Theatre Royal Windsor

“You said everything was in plain view”

The list of the NT2000 top 100 plays has been a difficult one to whittle down – I don’t think I’ve managed to catch any of the shows I’ve yet to see since the pandemic, so this revival of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth was a welcome surprise, not least because it also offered the opportunity to make my first visit to the undoubted beauty and friendliness of the Theatre Royal Windsor.

Written by Anthony Shaffer in 1970, it is a genuinely evergreen thriller, ingeniously constructed in a way that should please both afficionados of the genre and more casual viewers, twisting and turning with devious abandon. It is also the kind of play it is best to go in with as little knowledge as possible (I’d managed to avoid both the 1972 and 2007 film versions but will be catching up this weekend).

Milo Tindle (Neil McDermott) is a strapping young chap who’s been invited to the country pile of noted mystery writer Andrew Wyke (Todd Boyce) for reasons that soon become apparent. Only, there’s reasons on top of reasons, motivations that slowly rise to the surface only to flip on their head, multiple layers of artful deception above and beyond the myriad costumes kept in a dressing up box.

Rachel Kavanaugh’s production wisely resists the temptation to do too much, a classic approach allowing the strengths of this two-hander (for the most part) to shine through. Julie Godfrey’s country home set nails the grandeur of Wyke’s ego and Tim Oliver’s lighting plays so cleverly with the tricksiness that both men are trying to employ as they try to out-manipulate each other.

Both actors are delightfully fun as they wind their way around the slippery twists and turns. I don’t watch Coronation Street but can imagine Boyce was excellent as their latest serial killer, his slyness deployed perfectly here. And McDermott wields his impressive stage presence well as the intrigue builds and builds – you can rest assured that the butler didn’t do it…! Great fun.

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