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Sleuth review at Nottingham Playhouse – ‘arch and crafty’

James Alexandrou and Miles Richardson in Sleuth at Nottingham Playhouse. Photo: Robert Day

Given a Tony-award winning production in 1970 and two films, including the unforgettable duel between Olivier and Michael Caine in 1972, it’s a tall order for a revival of Anthony Shaffer’s twisty-plotted satire on country house murder mysteries still to fizz with terrors and surprises. In Giles Croft’s production for Nottingham Playhouse the game-playing continues however, with a craftily misleading cast list.

Andrew, a famous author of detective fiction with a penchant for game-playing, persuades his wife’s Italian-Jewish lover, Milo, to fake a robbery. Milo believes he will get away with the jewels and the wife, while Andrew claims the insurance. What ensues qualifies the play to be part of the Playhouse’s Sweet Vengeance Season, along with a Charlie Resnick thriller and Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy.

The first Act, in which suave Miles Richardson as Andrew has the better of James Alexandrou ‘s Milo in his sadistic power games, never catches fire. Its archness seems dated and Alexandrou (Martin Fowler from EastEnders) has a tendency to gabble. Things improve a good deal after the interval: Alexandrou relishes the necessary role-playing and the pacing picks up. And Croft’s production does allow the nastiness of anti-Semitism and brutal male competitiveness to seep through the manic entertainment.

The real star of the evening is, however, Barney George’s brilliant set, a mock country house which reveals and conceals rooms, cupboards and even a neo-Gothic frontage at the push of numerous buttons, aided by busy screens showing the gardens or relevant portraits, including one of Dame Agatha herself – just as in the film.

Verdict
Solid revival in which the actors are almost upstaged by the set

Production Information

Production
Sleuth
Venue
Playhouse
City
Nottingham
Starts
September 9, 2016
Ends
September 24, 2016
Press night
September 13, 2016
Authors
Anthony Shaffer
Composer
Jonathan Girling
Director
Giles Croft
Musical director
Jonathan Girling
Design
Barney George
Lighting
Alexandra Stafford
Sound
Martin Curtis
Video
Simon Wainwright
Technical
Kat Hicks (vocal coach), Philip D’Orleans (fight director), Natasha Hyman (assistant director)
Stage manager
Jane Eliot-Webb (company and stage manager)
Cast includes
James Alexandrou, Miles Richardson, Cliff Williams, Oli Smith, Ed Boot
Producer
Nottingham Playhouse, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Running time
2hrs 15mins