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Sleuth

April 8th - April 13th

Todd Boyce (Coronation Street’s notorious baddie, Stephen Reid) and Neil McDermott (EastEnders, The Royal) star in Anthony Shaffer’s masterpiece, directed by award winning Rachel Kavanaugh.

A young man (McDermott) arrives at the impressive home of a famous mystery writer (Boyce), only to be unwittingly drawn into a tangled web of intrigue and gamesmanship, where nothing is quite as it seems…  

This dark psychological ‘thriller about thrillers’ makes for an intriguing study of human conflict, jealousy, and manipulation. Proving to be far more than a ‘whodunnit’, it promises to baffle even the most proficient sleuth!  

Sleuth is one of the greatest ever stage thrillers and played for a total of 12 years in both London and New York. Winning the Tony Award for Best Play, it also became the inspiration for the hugely successful film starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine.

 

“Shaffer’s sublime thriller is a masterpiece of plots… cracking entertainment that will appeal to everyone” The Advertiser

Running time: Approx. 2 hours (including interval)

Details

Start:
April 8th
End:
April 13th
Event Categories:
,

Venue

Festival Theatre
Grange Road
Malvern, WR14 3HB

Other

Price:
Mon Eve & Wed Mat: £36.96 £34.72 £32.48 £29.12 £25.76
Tues-Thurs Eves & Sat Mat: £39.20 £36.96 £34.72 £31.36 £28.00
Fri & Sat Eves: £42.56 £40.32 £38.08 £34.72 £31.36
Members discounts apply
Price includes 12% booking fee
Show Times:
Monday 8th to Saturday 13th April
Evenings at 7.30pm
Wednesday & Saturday Matinees at 2.30pm

Event Reviews

  • Weekend Notes - Alison Brinkworth

    As psychological thrillers go, Sleuth is up there with the best. It won a Tony Award for Best Play and ran for 12 years across London's West End and Broadway in New York - and now it's back for a new generation to enjoy.

    I hadn't seen Sleuth before, so was coming into the story fresh for its new UK tour to Malvern Theatres . The Bill Kenwright production stays there from Monday April 8 until Saturday April 13 before continuing on to Cheltenham's Everyman from April 15 to 20.

    Anthony Shaffer’s story this time stars former EastEnders actor Neil McDermott and Todd Boyce, who famously played villain Stephen Reid in Coronation Street. They are men on opposite sides of the class and age divide who end up in a psychological duel, fighting over the same woman and for their dignity.

    Sleuth is a show made for whodunnit lovers. Not just the story itself but the in-jokes and running commentary around murder mysteries of a certain age, Agatha Christie and the like. It manipulates, puzzles and throws in plenty of red herrings while also examining the mentality of the crime writer.

    The plot is centred around ageing murder mystery novelist Andrew Wyke (Boyce) and we join him in his country mansion dotted with sinister-looking puppets including a menacingly large mechanical life-size clown. He's working out a murderous plot in the opening scene in a rather self-satisfying fashion and you can tell Boyce is having fun playing this macabre, eccentric character.

    He's invited around McDermott's Milo Tindle, a younger and more attractive man, who has been seeing his wife, and so the games begin. I don't want to spoil any of the twisty plot but it's fair to say this will keep you guessing time and time again.

    Both men hold their own on stage although from what I gather, the class difference isn't as notable as in the movie of the same name starring Laurence Olivier and a young Michael Caine.

    Directing the show is award-winning Rachel Kavanaugh, who earned a reputation for work with The RSC and Chichester Festival Theatre. She keeps this clever psychological thriller fast-paced.

    Boyce is commanding and slick in what's a wordy and cynical role. While McDermott is energetic and vibrant as the underdog who gets more than he bargained for.

    For those with a theatre programme, check it again after you've seen the finale and you'll notice some more puzzles to solve.

    Sleuth is a satisfying, twisted psychological thriller that has stood the test of time in this well thought out, thoroughly enjoyable new production.

  • The View from the Stalls

    Prepare to be taken for a ride!

    If there is one thing to be taken away from this show, it is No Spoilers, please!

    And if you have never seen the film version from 1972 which starred Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, don't be tempted to look up the plot. For there are mind games going on here that will certainly both fool and surprise you…

    Anthony Shaffer was one of a pair of Liverpudlian playwriting twins (his brother Peter most famously wrote Equus) and this is perhaps his most well-known work. Starring Todd Boyce (Stephen Reid in Coronation Street) and Neil McDermott (Ryan Malloy in Eastenders), the first half is a two-hander between Andrew Wyke, an author who lives a charmed life in a well-appointed mansion with some strange memorabilia dotted around and Milo Tindle, son of an Italian immigrant who has moved in nearby and who wishes to marry Wyke's (presumably ex-) wife.

    In order for the somewhat impoverished Tindle to keep the wife in the manner to which she has become accustomed, Wyke arranges a scenario in which some jewellery can be stolen for insurance purposes and sold on abroad thus giving Tindle the income he will need and Wyke the returns from his deceit. Of course, the police will become involved (more of that in the second half…)

    It is a case of always questioning what you see as things are not quite as simple as they appear…

    Both Boyce and McDermott play their roles well (though on a technical note, Boyce's concealed microphone gave him a muffled echoey sound in stark contrast to McDermott's which was nice and clear) and the set certainly provided a few surprises. And there is a trigger warning if you don't like clowns (or loud bangs for that matter).

    This is definitely a show that will keep you guessing…

  • Curtain Call Reviews

    "Sleuth" is a gripping and suspenseful play by Anthony Shaffer that revolves around the intense psychological battle between two men, Andrew Wyke, a successful crime novelist, and Milo Tindle, a young man having an affair with Wyke's wife. Set in Wyke's eccentric English country house, the story unfolds as the two men engage in a series of mind games and manipulations, each attempting to outwit the other. As the plot twists and turns, the lines between reality and fiction blur, leading to a shocking and unexpected climax. "Sleuth" explores themes of deception, betrayal, and the power dynamics of relationships, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats until the very end.

    This two hander is performed by Todd Boyce as Andrew Wyke, and Neil McDermott as Milo Tindle. The pair never stop, with fast paced dialogue and movement around the stage. Thanks to Director Rachel Kavanaugh, this show is full on and keeps you gripped throughout. There is no dip in pace at all and there is plenty for you to focus on with the detail provided in Wyke’s house (Julie Godfrey – Designer), with wood panelling, large fireplace, vast windows and even a near life size laughing sailor puppet (Spur Creative) which comes to life on a few occasions throwing in some humour to the proceedings.

    Boyce and McDermott, both clearly very experienced performers, command the stage and bring this story to life, which is one of upmanship and mind games. The vast amount of dialogue they both share never feels forced and flows extremely well throughout. It is hard to discuss the story without offering up any spoilers, and it would be unfair of me to go into too much detail, as the twists and turns are peppered throughout to great dramatic effect. The writing by Anthony Shaffer really is very clever.

    One thing I will mention, and even appeared on posters outside the main auditorium is the trigger warning of a clown being featured. I must admit that this was the first time I had seen such a warning, but I guess clowns can frighten some people. Designer Pat Farmer provided a vibrant clown costume, with a mask that may make some of those not too keen on clowns, look away. There is also one very loud bang, which surprisingly wasn’t mentioned on the same poster, so for those of a nervous disposition, this happens in the first half of the show.

    Now, for those of us who love to read through the programme, you may notice a few things surrounding the show and its cast. I thought this was a really fantastic way to incorporate themes of the story into the literature for the production, and for those who really love a riddle or a puzzle, there is more fun to uncover. Thankfully, I was able to speak to Neil McDermott after the show who uncovered these wonderful additions, which you can take away with you after the show has ended.

    Overall, “Sleuth” was the ultimate game of one upmanship, with plenty of twists and turns for those who love a mystery.

  • Showtime!

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s no mystery whatsoever why Todd Boyce was given the role of sinister prankster Andrew Wyke in this nail-chewing version of the Anthony Shaffer thriller classic.

    For having been on the edge of my sofa during several months of witnessing his psychotic murder-fest in Coronation Street, I can certainly vouch for the utter darkness and menace that this superbly gifted actor brings to the role of the cuckolded crime writer intent on vengeance.

    The thing is that this latter-day killer on the cobbles manages to seamlessly adapt his penchant for playing the pitiless persona in a way that draws one to him in the manner that the moth must dance round a candle.

    However, there is only one individual who’s about to get his wings burned and that’s Milo Tindle, the jack-the-lad hairdresser who’s been doing rather more than trimming, perming and peroxiding Wyke’s wife Margeurite.

    Tindle, played with a gloriously spiky, working-class attitude by Neil McDermott, has a chip on his shoulder the size of a rail track sleeper, chuffed that’s he’s bedded an upper-class bint, but now very nervous in the presence of a husband whose responses don’t seem to fit the circumstances.

    Tindle would probably prefer a lot of shouting, then a punch-up in the time-honoured tradition. But Wyke has other plans, involving a clown’s outfit and the staging of a fake burglary that would solve his rival’s cash-flow problem.

    This is foreign territory for Tindle. No wonder then that our Mr Teasy-Weasy is becoming decidedly queasy as a ghastly scenario starts to unfold.

    The tension soon starts to build, fuelled by Wyke’s constant trips to the drinks cabinet, and Tindle – essentially now a prisoner in his host’s Gothic pile – soon finds himself like a love-rat caught in a trap.

    Boyce and McDermott squeeze every drop of emotion out of Shaffer’s acid dialogue, a haranguing match that seeps and burns its way across the Festival Theatre stage until eventually casting its dank cloud across the entire auditorium.

    Sleuth is brimming with plots, counterplots and wickedly inventive double-crossing. And these two fine actors make the very most of it, never once allowing the taut-as-a-fiddle-string stress factor to slacken.

    It’s a fascinating essay of jealousy, conflict, but above all an intriguing study of the lengths to which the cruelly creative and manipulative mind will go in pursuit of revenge.

    Crisply directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, it’s this week’s must-see show at Malvern, and no amount of praise from this critic can do it justice… a relentlessly tense tale that will keep you guessing right up until the final curtain.

  • Fairy Powered Productions - Courie Amado Juneau

    Sleuth was playwright Anthony Shaffer’s debut – and what a way to start! Written (so the informative programme reveals) at the behest of his twin brother who thought it time that Anthony fulfilled his promise (and destiny); I’m glad that he was prodded into action.

    The plot involves a wealthy writer inviting his wife’s lover round to discuss the unfolding situation and, in the course of the discourse, he comes up with a surprising and rather novel solution to the “problem”.

    The set was a resplendent affair that convincingly transported us to a rather grand country home. Suitably dressed with all the nick-nacks one would find in an actual home, many of which caught my interest, it was a testament to a wonderful creation from Set and Costume Designer Julie Godfrey.

    Sat at the desk as the curtain rises, tapping away at his typewriter – I still love the sound of a proper typewriter which takes me back to a more refined time – is Andrew Wyke (homeowner, writer and husband of the piece) played with gloriously off-kilter aplomb by Todd Boyce. Setting his stall out early with a highly theatrical reading from his latest fictional work, this wonderfully evocative portrayal delighted from start to finish. But there was far more to this character than originally met the eye and I loved the relish with which he took some rather surprising turns – and yet, though the character went through an at times jarring journey, the character remained true to himself. An enormously enjoyable and convincing performance from an actor on top form.

    Soon enough Milo Tindle (Neil McDermott) arrived and the fun and (mind) games truly began. Tindle is a marvellous, rounded character giving us a perfect foil for Wyke to play against. A superbly judged, nicely nuanced performance that ran the gamut of emotions throughout. It’s difficult to wax lyrical in unbridled fashion without giving the plot away but Mr McDermott’s performance was fully fleshed out and wildly enjoyable. I was taken with his use of emotion and ability to dramatically pivot rapidly to change the entire complexion of a scene.

    Director Rachel Kavanaugh revelled in the inherent dark humour (as did both of the actors) to great effect. The back story and unseen characters were also cleverly weaved in giving us the impression of a much larger cast and world than the one we are physically presented with on stage.

    The opening act laid the foundations culminating in a spirited, shocking ending which made the mouth water in anticipation of a second act that turned out to be even better! This celebration of the plot twist a la Hitchcock’s famous TV show, left us perpetually wondering who was playing who and for what purpose.

    I thoroughly enjoyed Sleuth, a play which keeps you thrillingly on the edge of your seat and generated much debate during the journey home. This latest production brings it to life with gusto and I’m sure the playwright would have thoroughly appreciated this impressive revival. I’m equally sure it’ll remain a very popular presence on stages everywhere and I, for one, thoroughly recommend it. Wickedly enthralling 5 star entertainment

  • British Theatre Guide - Colin Davison

    When Rachel Kavanaugh was looking for a couple of experienced villains, not even the London mafia could have come up with an apparently more qualified pair than Todd Boyce and Neil McDermott.

    McDermott is the relative novice in the business, having as East Ender Ryan Malloy despatched a solitary soul in the TV soap, so no doubt he could still learn a trick or two from Boyce, whose Stephen Reid reduced the Coronation Street payroll by four before his time was up.

    Director Kavanaugh pitches the two actors against each other in this comedy thriller. The stage design is the classic country house, furnished with Egyptian sarcophagus, Chesterfield, armour and jolly Jack Tar—a perfect set-up for events that follow, as well as a send-up of the hokum detective novels written by its owner, Andrew Wyke.

    Wyke (Boyce) has invited over his wife’s lover Milo and persuades him to participate in faking a burglary as part of an insurance scam. But is it really an exercise in humiliation, and if so whose?

    There is a supercilious air about the game-playing Wyke, a man using his skill with words to batter and demean his intended victim, and Boyce keeps the dialogue pacy if sometimes at the cost of easy comprehension. McDermott’s Milo proves to be a more resilient and versatile adversary than expected, just dopey enough to go along with Wyke’s plans, just smart enough to... whatever.

    Of course that would be to give too much away. Film and stage directors have chosen slightly different endings—here I felt was a bit of a botch, either toned down or underplayed. A good and diverting evening’s entertainment, nonetheless.

  • A View from Behind the Arras - Timothy Crow

    Anthony Shaffer’s play Sleuth, billed as the ‘World’s Greatest Thriller’, is hugely dramatic and highly entertaining.

    Andrew Wyke, a writer of detective fiction, invites Milo Tindle to his country mansion for a negotiation. Milo has become Marguerite Wyke’s lover and wants Andrew to divorce her so that he can in turn marry her. This emotional tangle is the basis for the plot.

    It appears Andrew is willing to part with his wife, whom he appears to despise, but he wants to strike a bargain. He wants Milo, who is strapped for cash, to burgle his house and steal the jewellery from his safe, so that he, Andrew Wyke, can in turn claim the insurance monies and thereby meet both their financial requirements.

    ‘All good money-making schemes are criminal’ he asserts.

    This introduces some elaborate games and clever pretences in which both parties are out to scare, outsmart and humiliate the other. Dressing up, clown outfits, guns . . . all form part of the attempts by each of the rivals to outscore the other. Cynical, witty dialogue abounds – particularly from the somewhat patronising and snobbish Wyke. ‘Sex is the game, marriage is the penalty’, he states.

    To describe the action or the plot further would spoil the suspense and the drama of this very clever and witty play. As the curtain rises we are faced with a wonderful set, designed by Julie Godfrey – the opulent and stylish interior of a country mansion.

    The performances by the two leading actors, Todd Boyce of Coronation Street fame and Neil McDermott of Eastenders, are very strong and dramatic. They sometimes delivered the script at great speed and this meant we sometimes missed some of the lines. Todd Boyce was particularly strong in Act One, Neil McDermott in Act Two.

    The furniture, the props and some of the special effects added to the humour and the dramatic impact of the play. Director Rachel Kavanaugh brings together a highly entertaining and pacy production that keeps us all on tenterhooks throughout. A great evening’s entertainment!

  • Robert

    Watched this last night and thoroughly enjoyed it . The whole cast were superb , absolutely nothing was as it seemed , not even the programme i bought in the foyer before going into the auditorium. Thanks very much for a very enjoyable evening.