The setting for Sutton Arts Theatre’s latest winning play - a ‘cosy English country house’ - is far from the snugly warm and comfortable place such a description suggests. Expect twists and turns, mystery, comedy and tension in this clever detective yarn which leaves the audience guessing right up to the final curtain.
Anthony Shaffer’s 1970 play was adapted for film in 1972, starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine and a 2007 remake with Jude Law saw Caine swapping roles. Directed by Claire Armstrong-Mills, this production bounds along at a pace and there’s much fun to be had following the game-playing trickery and deceptions of the central characters.
The Wiltshire country house at which the mysteries and revenges unfold belongs to celebrated crime fiction writer Andrew Wyke, played with a slippery, shady charm by Mark Nattrass who neatly treads a fine line between arrogance and quirky likeability. Wyke is clearly a man who delights in his writing and in this playful performance he mimics a variety of other characters brilliantly, including his wife, a cleaner and a gruff cockney police officer.
There’s strong on-stage chemistry between Wkye and his invited guest Milo Tindle, played by Rajesh Bedi. The chemistry is so strong, in fact, that were it not for the fact that Wkye’s wife and Tindle’s lover are the same woman, they’d be firm friends. Although we never meet wife and lover Marguerite, her future status drives the plot: will she remain with her crime writing husband or elope with her lover? When Wyke lures Tindle to the house and convinces him to stage a robbery of her jewelry, the plot thickens and the games begin.
Tindle may not be in a position to offer Marguerite a country manor house (he lives in a room above his travel agency in Dulwich) but he does, at least, seem to love her. Rajesh Bedi brings great comic timing and a mischievous shrewdness to the role in a convincing and canny performance. N W Clerk’s appearance as Inspector Doppler in the second act is a surprising comic highlight.
Billed as ‘the ultimate game of cat-and-house’, Sleuth is part comedy, part mystery, part romance and part thriller. This hugely enjoyable production, full of surprises, ticks all the boxes.
Sleuth is playing at Sutton Arts Theatre until Saturday 2nd November.