by Anthony Shaffer.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse Highgate N6 4BD To 20 April 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sun 4pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0208 340 3488.
Review: William Russell 18 March.
Verdict I: Successful amalgam of murder, mayhem and baths.
Thrillers are always a problem to review, as one has to avoid giving away anything that may spoil the pleasure of future audiences. Anthony Shaffer’s 1970 play Sleuth is a case in point. This play, written three year’s later, did not repeat the success of Sleuth, which was to remain his masterwork but it is a decent example of a genre now rarely seen on the stage. It also has a rather daring opening as there is no dialogue for nearly half an hour.
We see a young painter, patently very bad judging by what is on his easel, drug, then strangle his model after which he puts her body in the bath and starts to dismember it with an assortment of tools from cleavers to hacksaws and electric saws. Director Tim Frost has given it just the right touch – we don’t laugh, but we do titter uneasily. It can’t be happening, can it?
After that we discover that the man, Norman Bartholomew, beautifully played by Bradley Clarkson with just the right degree of charm and creepiness, is a murder anorak who loves re-enacting the crimes of famous wife killers of the past. He naturally enough wants to kill his wife. Add an intrusive bobby – the nosey old lady next door has seen what is going on through the uncurtained windows – and lots of gore and several red herrings, although as a four hander it is not too difficult to guess who really ends up dead.
Abby Forknall and Elizabeth Bartholomew play the ladies in peril very nicely, and Andrew Ashford is a splendid bumbling policeman. But the evening belongs to Mr Clarkson who, wild-eyed and knocking back the brandy, keeps digging himself into and out of ever more appalling situations.
Norman Bartholomew: Bradley Clarkson.
Millie Sykes: Abby Forknall.
Sergeant Stenning: Andrew Ashford.
Elizabeth Bartholomew: Zoë Teverson.
Director: Tim Frost.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Les Broughton.
Sound: Kirsty Gillmore.
Costume: Alison Jacobson.