Review: Sleuth, Richmond Theatre

Now playing at Richmond Theatre, Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth continues to please with its game-playing machinations

“There’s nothing like a little bit of mayhem to cheer one up

Audra McDonald warned us about not going back to before but I have to admit to a real joy (I don’t believe in my pleasures being guilty!) in revisiting shows, particularly thrillers with a twist. Arguably, that is saying too much already but given that Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth dates back to 1970, I don’t think that it is too much of a spoiler to say that not everything is quite as it seems on the highly polished surface.

I caught this touring production in Windsor back in February knowing nothing about it but this time around, armed with that prior viewing of the play, plus watching both the 1972 and 2007 film versions, I was fascinated to see how the drama played out when you know what to look for. The beauty though, under Rachel Kavanaugh’s taut direction here, is that Sleuth really does play its cards close to its chest.

Shaffer’s tightly coiled plotting is effective from top to bottom, as famed mystery writer Andrew Wyke invites Milo Tindle over with an unexpected proposition for him. A few crumbs offered here and there but as the games and manipulations between them unfold, the capacity to shock and surprise is well maintained. Todd Boyce and Neil McDermott capture differing but complementary takes on the masculine ego with great conviction, each’s need to have the upper hand a telling sign.

Julie Godfrey’s handsome country manor house design remains an absolute treat, the perfect venue for all this game-playing with its accumulation of so much stuff (I kinda want a sarcophagus next to a grandfather clock at the top of my staircase now…) so much of which has its own role to play. A story, and a production, that easily bears a second viewing with two great performances at its core.

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