Theatre Review: Deathtrap – Noel Coward

Deathtrap is the latest play to hit Theatreland, replacing Calender Girls at the Noel Coward. It tells the story of a playwright Sidney Bruhl and the hunt for his next masterpiece. However, it should be noted that I can’t give too much away as the programme advises: “Please keep the plot a secret and don’t spoil the fun for future audiences”.

Okay, so I’ll be loyal to the play. Well  for one thing, the thriller never fails to surprise. The plot has enough twists and turns to satisfy even the most seasoned theatregoer. But what’s in it for the drama student? Ira Levin’s revival, last seen in the West End in 1978, brings theatre back to its roots. It’s hard to find a good thriller in the West End these days and although the humour can be a little tedious at times, Levin’s play is all the boxes ticked for a night of entertainment. And for the theatre buffs amongst us, the play is filled with endless ‘in’ jokes for people clued up on the industry.

Simon Russell Beale is Sidney Bruhl, a fading writer on the hunt for his next masterpiece, and he will do anything to get it. Beale commands the stage in the most powerful manner and does a thrilling job of showing the tension in his relationship with wife Myra Bruhl, played by Claire Skinner. Skinner is currently appearing in the television series Outnumbered, and does a great job of bringing vibrancy to the cast, although her American accent can become a little irritating at times.

And for the theatre buffs amongst us, the play is filled with endless ‘in’ jokes for people clued up on the industry.

Jonathan Groff, known for his role in hit television series Glee, makes his West End debut in Deathtrap. Groff has a musical theatre background, yet he excels in the play. Never is there a dull moment when the handsome actor is on stage. Estelle Parsons supports as the humorous psychic, Helga ten Dorp, always refreshing the audience with another dose of her premonitions. Terry Beaver supports as Porter Pilgrim in a somewhat stationary role.

Praise is due to Rob Howell, designer, who has created a warm and enticing setting for the play as well as a flexible acting space for all the action. The sound design by Simon Baker is key to the plot and spooky sounds start playing at all the eerie moments, like a good episode of Miss Marple.

Deathtrap is a clear representation of 70’s satire. But I  would argue that it doesn’t push the boundaries of theatre in these times, as it did when it was first released. It does remind us what traditional theatre is made of and it certainly reminds us of our ‘cut-throat’ industry.

Runs until 22nd January 2011.


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