Written by Ira Levin
Directed by Kim Wilson
Tempo Theatre at Belconnen Theatre until May 28th
Review by Len Power 20 May 2016
Ira Levin’s ‘Deathtrap’ was written in 1978 and holds the record at nearly 1800 performances for the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway. It was adapted into a film starring Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine in 1982. Levin was also the author of the novels ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘The Stepford Wives’ and ‘The Boys From Brazil’.
Without giving too much away, the plot involves a famous American murder mystery playwright who hasn’t had a hit show in years and who is sent a play by an aspiring young writer for comment and advice. Recognizing that the play is perfect as it is and would be a smash hit if produced, the playwright considers the possibility of murdering the young author and pretending the play is his own work. Much of the fun of the play occurs with the characters discussing what makes the perfect commercial murder play. Levin appears to let us in on a lot of play writing secrets.
The play is a challenging one to produce successfully. Tempo Theatre’s production is entertaining but falls short in a few areas. The acting skills of the cast are uneven and often not up to the demands of the tricky script. Laughs were lost as result. The play needs to move at a good pace but the Tempo production lacks energy and seems somewhat under-rehearsed. The murder sequences were not as convincing as they should be.
I enjoyed the performances of Sam Kentish as the young writer, Clifford Anderson, and Margi Sainsbury was deliciously dizzy as Helga Ten Dorp, a psychic who provides much of the comedy. Paul Jackson shone here and there in the major role of the elder writer, Sidney Bruhl, but the pacing of the show worked against his performance.
The set design by Kim Wilson and Jon Elphick worked quite well physically but needed more contrast in colour and set dressing. The costumes for the psychic, Helga Ten Dorp, were especially well chosen.
Some music or sound effects at the beginning and in the dark scene changes would have added extra atmosphere to the production.
Although Tempo’s production has its shortcomings, it is still a clever and enjoyable play. If you have never seen it, you’ll have a good time experiencing its twists and turns.
Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Artcetera’ program on Saturdays from 9am.