Deathtrap will keep you on the edge of your seat

deathtrapARTSBEAT REVIEW: “A ticket reserves you a whole seat, however you’ll only need the edge of it,” confidently declares the publicity for Talking Scarlet’s production of Deathtrap.

And yes, despite the fact that Ira Levin’s thriller has been around since the 70s and has been made into a movie, the audience was still gripping on to the edge of the Pomegranate Theatre’s  seats last night.

In fact at one key turning point in the plot you would have thought an electric shock had been sent through the upholstery we all jumped so high.

There are more twists than a pretzel factory and the story is stuffed full of bluffs and double crosses but part of the enjoyment comes in the element of surprise and the ability of the cast to stop us from seeing what’s coming next – even though we probably already know.

It is difficult to discuss the plot without divulging too much but the action takes place in the Connecticut study of once-successful now fading Broadway thriller writer Sidney Bruhl who hasn’t had a hit in years and has been living of his wife Myra’s money.

When a perfect manuscript – a five-character, two-act thriller with laughs in all the right places – arrives in the post from a former student he realises it is something for which he may literally kill.

Sidney invites the young writer, Clifford Anderson, to his home, which is stuffed full of memento weapons and, to his wife’s consternation he is gradually tempted to bump him off and steal his work.

The play’s director John Hester, who also plays the cameo part of lawyer Porter Milgrim, began work as a member of the Chesterfield theatre’s repertory company in 1979.

Since then he has appeared all over the country in numerous productions and is a regular at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.

His direction on this occasion, together with good use of sound effects, kept the tension alive.

Stephen Beckett, who plays Sidney, is best known for his roles as Pc Jarvis in The Bill and Dr Ramsden in Coronation Street, but his extensive experience on stage guarantees that the only character you will be seeing is the twisted, self-centred playwright.

His timing is impeccable and each sly glance well judged. He gives the role more emotional complexity than was probably intended back in the 70s but that suits a more open-minded 21st century audience.

Griffin Stevens, who plays the annoyingly effusive and over confident Clifford, is effective and persuasive.

Jo Castleton who plays Sidney’s long-suffering, but nevertheless assertive wife Myra, gives the part the spirit it sometimes lacks as she is definitely more fun and flirty than frumpy.

The comedic highlight of the evening is brought to the stage by Claire Vousden – the couple’s psychic neighbour Helga ten Dorp.

This part can be disastrously overplayed or become a bit of a damp squib but she gave it just the right amount of slapstick to make us squeal with laughter.

Deathtrap may contrived and exceptionally silly but it is definitely fun and if you want to be thrilled the best thing to do is forget what you may already know and be prepared to cling on to the edge of that seat.

The stage manager was Jeremy Barnaby, technical director Charlotte Eden, assistant stage manager Shaz, and designer Geoff Gilder.

Deathtrap can be seen at the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield until Thursday June 27. For more details and tickets go to http://www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk