Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor

It’s A DEATHTRAP, And You’ve Been Caught!

The word ‘whodunnit’ makes my flesh curl, my heart sigh and should be avoided like a room full of cricket enthusiasts stranded in a Headingly pub, when the lounge door has become jammed on a piece of rogue carpet!

However, the word ‘thriller’ may be approached with caution. Even better make sure you hear these eight letters with just an hour’s notice.

Which was what happened when I was unexpectedly invited to Harrogate Theatre last night to watch HT Rep perform the second of their trilogy, Ira Levin’s Deathtrap. I didn’t know what to expect and, even though the play has been in our lives for some considerable time, I was a relative virgin in the brothel of ‘thriller’ theatre!

And, for the most part, what cheeky, amusing fun it was, even if it did have a slightly 2001 A Space Odyssey ending where the curtain came down and I was left momentarily thinking: ‘Oh, is that it?’

However, top marks to the theatre – and the cast – for working so hard to bring that age-old tradition back to life; repertory where the same cast perform several plays over several weeks.

Apart from giving the players a huge amount of experience, rep also builds an affinity with local audiences who, in theory, return to see ‘their’ company. Ownership is not a bad thing in this fickle world.

Last night it was a three gear shift from John Godber’s On the Piste to Levin’s Deathtrap and, not having seen the Godber offer, I could only judge what I saw and what a splendid, highly experienced Shakespearian actor, Ross Waiton proved himself to be as Sydney Bruhl, the failing Broadway playwright who, in a fit of depression, decides to commit the ultimate act of murder (or does he?) in the vain hope of stealing a prized manuscript from a former student so that he can re-badge it under his own name.

It is two hours of intrigue with more than the occasional false pathway which, for me, worked brilliantly. The play may have been around for many a decade but, because I had not seen it before, I was able to judge it fairly and squarely without prejudice of previous opinion.

Waiton was a strong, centre stage anchor, articulate, clear and theatrically dominant, with Katy Dean as his fateful wife Myra, destined for a heavy thud to the floor as the spider’s web of intrigue slowly unfolds.

I liked the use of music in the scene changes for it removed the ‘dead’ space that often pervades some plays, whilst Ewan Goddard as student playwright, Clifford Anderson, showed himself as a fresh faced young actor, not quite up to Waiton’s measure just yet, but certainly a man in the making and an actor who will, no doubt, gain immensely from his time with HT Rep.

Janine Mellor as psychic Helga Ten Dorp was so far left of centre that far from grimacing I found myself laughing loudly at her performance which was straight out of a Dracula movie, set in the heart of Transylvania. If the intention was to create laughter interest then she achieved the goal in spades, however, if the intention was any other, then Ms Mellor was straight from the pages of Graham Green’s The Art of Coarse Acting!

Overall, this was a fun and intriguing evening with more than the odd cliff drop. If not on the edge of your seat, you will certainly experience a couple of surprises and hopefully go home with that special feeling: ‘Ooh, I didn’t’ see that coming!’

Deathtrap
Harrogate Theatre
Until 7th September 2019