Nottingham and West Yorkshire Playhouses revival of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth
Anthony Shaffer’s classic thriller is brought back to life in a co-production between the Nottingham and West Yorkshire Playhouses. The difficulty with reviewing a play billed as ‘the ultimate game of cat and mouse’ is that to even hint at the plot is to risk spoilers. The impact of the production is solely dependent on its many twists and turns. I can safely tell you that the action unfolds between pretentious writer of detective fiction, Andrew Wyke (Miles Richardson) and the man determined to take away his wife, Milo Tindle (James Alexandrou). Over the course of an evening they vie for the upper hand in the game that unfolds between them with ever more serious consequences.
I am conflicted in my opinion of this production. The performances of both leads were excellent. Andrew and Milo are not easy parts to tackle and the actors did so with energy and commitment. The set was an intricate mix of moving parts and video screens which fit well with the high energy performances.
However, that same energy exposed one of the play’s weaknesses. It was paced poorly, with almost the entire first act made up of Wyke trying to persuade Milo to play the game. I never really believed the motivation for the latter to do so. Whilst the pace picked up in the second half, the constant guessing and second guessing ran the risk of being as tiresome as it was thrilling. Yes, there were twists and turns, but they felt a little laboured as the show wore on. So whilst I give huge credit to the actors for throwing themselves into it with such gusto, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the shouting, jumping around and shiny scenery served mainly to distract from the fact that the script had really not aged well.
That is not to say it was bad, merely, unexciting. It is a play about the nature of games and the lengths people will go to win. A cat and mouse chase of the ilk of early Sherlock Holmes books rather than the high action modern versions. I did not anticipate many of the twists and I especially enjoyed the final one. If you are a fan of ‘old school’ mystery fiction then it is definitely worth checking this out, if only for the performances of the principal cast, but in terms of mystery and thrills, don’t expect anything that has not been done before, probably better.