'Sleuth' by Anthony Shaffer
Directed by: Richard Parish
Design by: David Hemsley-Brown
Lighting by: Alex Lyon
Sound by: Alex Lyon
Cast: Nick Lund and David Webb
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The ultimate game of cat-and-mouse is played out in a cosy English country house owned by celebrated mystery writer, Andrew Wyke. Invited guest Milo Tindle, a young rival who shares not only Wyke's love of the game but also his wife, has come to lay claim. Revenge is devised and murders plotted as the two plan the ultimate whodunnit. Sleuth has twists and turns which are both breathtakingly audacious and fiendishly cunning; a perfect mix of suspense and excitement and a brilliant parody of the Agatha Christie country-house thriller.
"Ingenious skulduggery replete with skillful suspense and inventive tricks." (The New York Post)
'Sardines' Magazine REVIEW OF 'SLEUTH' by NIGEL DAMS
I’ve seen Sleuth several times, from the first memorable movie with Olivier and Caine, the second forgettable movie and two other stage performances, but Lighted Fools surprised me by bringing out the humour in a way I’d never seen before.
Almost from the first line, one felt a springy and mercurial quality to the performance as David Webb begins to unveil his awesome repertoire of accents. As soon as Nick Lund appeares, playing Milo Tindle, the pair begin to spark off each other and deliver lines with pace and verve that had me laughing out loud. A lot.
I really can’t find anything to carp about with this production. Whatever flaws there might have been escaped my eagle eye, and my elkhound ear.
As usual with Lighted Fools, the stage set is the first thing to strike the expectant theatregoer. David Hemsley-Brown deserves special mention – the design and construction are just superb, as always, but also the special effects. I love the way bits of bric-a-brac go flying when shot at.
Lighting, too, is excellent. Subtle, as you want lighting to be, but also effective and well-rehearsed. You want the lights (and the laughing sailor-dummy) to come on when an actor pretends to flick a switch, not marginally early or late. Congratulations to the technical crew.
But back to the actors. They really do a great, great job. There are, obviously, lots and lots of lines in a two-hander, but if there are any lapses, they are too quickly recovered for me to notice. Not once does the pace and vigour slacken.
I mentioned Mr. Webb’s repertoire of accents, which was impressive, as all of them were very convincing. But Mr. Lund sustains a totally believable west-country copper in a way which is, I think, better than any I’ve seen before. Even Sir Michael was not completely convincing in the same role. In that movie, I began to see through the disguise (possibly owing to the curse of the cinema close-up) – but if last night had been the first time I saw the piece I would have been thoroughly fooled. Well done indeed.
I’ve said before, and I’ll risk saying again – the English tradition of amateur dramatic excellence cannot be matched anywhere in the world. Lighted Fools do a superb job of demonstrating once more that you don’t need to spend a hundred pounds and travel to London if you want to see first-class theatre.
Very sincere congratulations to director Richard Parish and all the crew for another wonderfully entertaining evening.
REVIEW OF 'SLEUTH' by ROGER MOODY
Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth was first performed just down the road to those of us who live in Sussex at Brighton's Theatre Royal 49 years ago and, to be honest, it is showing its age a little.
Described generally as a thriller and a comedy it now seems to have more than an element of farce in it, not simply farcical situations.
Definition of farce – ‘a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations’. Sleuth or what?
Shaffer certainly sends up perfectly the pompous, self-possessed and quite objectionable successful mystery writer Andrew Wyke, played in this Lighted Fools’ production impeccably, as always in any Fools play he appears in, by stalwart David Webb.
But is the ‘ludicrously improbably situation’ of luring his wife's lover Milo Tindle into a make believe robbery dressed as a clown with such deadly consequences quite as thrilling as it was nearly half a century ago when even Broadway's audiences and film goers were entranced, let alone Brighton's discerning playgoers?
Certainly the givers of the 1971 American Tony Award for Best Broadway Play thought so as did the makers of the original film version a year later and its subsequent reincarnation in 2007.
But back to Guildford's Mill Studio Theatre where The Fools took up residency for Sleuth. Is Shaffer trying to tell us something about a certain type of person in the character of Andrew Wyke - boorish, unrepentant and narcissist? Someone who strode through the land-locked county of Wiltshire half a century ago with disdain for those considered to be beneath him - or her.
Certainly this was a tour de force by David Webb making his twenty fourth appearance in a Lighted Fools production. He totally commanded the set - and more of that later - in a wonderfully believable performance even if the plot is less believable! A wordy and difficult part played to perfection.
Nick Lund was the ideal foil to Webb's Wyke as the timid, and obviously very gullible, Milo Tindle . Or perhaps he wasn't quite so timid, as he was prepared to go to such extreme lengths to try to cement his relationship with his lover. When Tindle, who was supposed to be dead, disguised himself as a local detective in an attempt to fool Wkye - are you still with me? - Lund was perfect.
And perfection also shown through in probably the best set that David Hemsley-Brown has designed for the company. One could quite comfortably have lived in this country house setting - preferably without the Laughing Sailor arcade automation, another star of the show!
And top marks, too, for all the other bits and pieces of the production's ‘business’ - exploding safes, gunshot shattered ornaments, windows being ‘un-glassed’ and so on.
And even if Sleuth is aging the audience loved it with the loudest and most enthusiastic cheers I've heard for a long time. Another triumph for Richard Parish, Lighted Fools founder and director of another sold out production.
'Surrey Advertiser' REVIEW OF 'SLEUTH' by JEFF THOMSON
How clever it was to contrast Six with the Mill Studio offering of Sleuth; both have mainstream appeal but are very different.
Sleuth is a comedy thriller and by no means pioneering fringe but it is entertaining and accessible; the Mill Studio was sold out on each occasion.
We read a lot about fringe and diversity and by pitching Sleuth against Six in the same week it offered a direct choice – the innovative against the traditional. It demonstrated too an empathy for those who do not wish innovation but who cannot stretch their budgets to main house productions.
Written by Anthony Shaffer, Sleuth delighted audiences for over 4,000 performances in the West End and Broadway, attracting a Tony Award for best play; this production, therefore, comes with a pedigree.
Director Richard Parish, for the Lighted Fools Company, moulded a tight evening but skilfully orchestrated pauses to emphasise frequent moments of tension. They hung tantalisingly in the air while those around me held their breath.
Andrew Wyke (David Webb) lures his wife’s lover, Milo (Nick Lund) to his home and convinces him to stage a robbery. This sets off a chain of events that keep us guessing as to Wyke’s ultimate plan.
Webb and Lund communicated a professional trust in each other that only experience can offer. Their rapport was excellent as was the attention to performance detail. In the Mill this is essential. The audience is a matter of feet away and so the tele-visual approach paid dividends.
An excellent setting by David Hemsley-Brown attracted applause as did the final, surprising denouement. There were audible gasps.
COMMENTS FROM OUR AUDIENCE ON 'SLEUTH'
What a wonderful production. I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did my friends.
The set was very country house and set the scene so well for all the action.
BRILLIANT! What more can I say?
A really enjoyable evening with an amazing set and some top rate acting - thank you!
What an excellent show.
We really enjoyed the play last night - thought the acting was superb.
Congratulations! We thoroughly enjoyed Sleuth last evening.
Just wanted to say how impressed we were. Congratulations to all the team. That set was just breathtaking.
LF just goes from strength to strength.
The play between David Webb and Nick Lund was perfect.
I have seen productions where there is supposed to be a struggle between two characters and you can see the actors worrying about where the furniture is and making sure they don’t actually touch each other. This struggle was entirely believable and there was nothing to distract from the crescendo to the final shot.
What a terrific performance of an intriguing story. A really good night out - thanks.
The play was superb - obviously right up there with Lighted Fools’ usual professionalism.
David Webb and Nick Lund were perfectly cast - such a perfect foil for each other!
Thank you for a terrific production last night - we really enjoyed it.
The set was amazing and the acting and direction, as ever, excellent.
Newman, Farrar and Purnell particularly impressed - we hope to see them again in future productions!
Many congratulations on ‘Sleuth’. I thought it was absolutely brilliant and one of the plays that I have most enjoyed.
The stage design was incredible.
Bad luck - another flop! Truth to tell I’ve run out of superlatives to say how I feel about your plays. The Lighted Fools are no longer amateurs.
The drawing out of the humour was clearly unusual in this production which I hadn’t appreciated before. Once you see it in this production it seems likes it is just in the writing and how could anyone miss it! But clearly they can and have.
Another great production! Thoroughly enjoyed it; specially enjoyed the performances by your new members!
Have to say I thought Sleuth was a bit dated and more farce than comic thriller but the performances, set and direction were faultless as always.
I wanted to say how much we enjoyed your latest production. The set was fantastic, so detailed and the acting was SUPERB! The time flew by it was so gripping!
What a play and you did it so well. We had seen it years ago but had forgotten all about the second act!
The set was a treat, the continuity faultless thanks to the wonderful team backstage and the actors magnificent.
Wonderful humour amid the tensions of the plot. I liked the line about the eyesight being like a mole with glaucoma.
Brilliant!! A big 'well done' to all!
Thank you so much for providing us with such a memorable experience.
I didn’t see any of the twists coming (the perfect audience member!) - I thought Milo was dead at the end of Act One and that the policemen were going to appear after the interval, although I was very puzzled as to why the stage was being tidied up.
Excellent performance by David Webb and Nick Lund, as ever.
The game at the end of Act One morphed from funny into truly terrifying - there was a line where Wyke turned it which was properly chilling.
I cannot tell you how much we both enjoyed last night's performance. What a play and what a production. I am still reeling!
Looking forward to next April – ‘The Sociable Plover’ is already in the diary!