REVIEW: DEATHTRAP (Noel Coward Theatre, London)

In summary: Jonathan Groff (et al.) certainly put the willies up me! 😛

I’m just back from having seen Deathtrap at the Noel Coward Theatre, London and I have to say that my initial feelings towards this play are rather positive.

Like many people it would seem, I was completely unaware of the plot behind the play other than the deliberately very loose synopsis that I’d read, as I was determined not to spoil any of the many twists and turns that the play goes through for myself. Needless to say, I’m very glad that I did, as it really did help to keep this play chugging along for me. As a reviewer, it is impossible to discuss the play without going into any of the plot details just a little – please be aware that ANYTHING WRITTEN IN GREY IS A SPOILER! (Please avoid if you do not wish to know minor plot details about the play).

For me, Deathtrap certainly was a play of two acts (something they kept hammering home – “Deathtrap, A thriller in two acts”) – the first, amazing, the second one, not so. The suspense and the big twist at the end of the first act was marvellous and kept the audience buzzing through the interval, but (and by the lead character’s own admission in Act Two) the second act was (perhaps disappointingly) not quite as enthralling. This is down to Ira Levin’s original work however, and I think that the production team have done well in working with the original material. All of that said, I would still rank Deathtrap as one of the plays that I’ve most enjoyed seeing if I am honest.

The quality of acting in the play was rather good I thought – there were a few issues for me (mainly with Claire Skinner’s portrayal of Myra, which I felt needed an older lady to play the part and whose accent seemed a little out-of-place), however by and large, the quality of everything was very good, and there was nothing to particularly jar the audience’s enjoyment.

Of course, the main credit for carrying the play has to go to Simon Russell Beale and the (very hunky – I’ll get on to this shortly!) Jonathan Groff – both of whom were really good in their roles.  I did feel a little sorry for Beale though as Groff got very much involved in the dialogue and there may have been a fair bit of moisture going his way! (tried to say it nicely!). That said, at one point, Groff had Beale in a very compromising position and was waving a pair of handcuffs at him… I felt less sorry for Beale then… the lucky so-and-so! 😛 hah!

The set was a show-stealer for me, I was in awe of it! I’ve never seen such a nice set for a play before, it really was something – and the staging was worked very well – full credit to the technical team! I spent a good ten minutes just starting at different aspects of the set – it’s a pity that they don’t open this up for the pre-set.

I thought that writer Ira Levin’s plot was very good in places and was, at times, even a little ‘scary’ (with audience members shrieking and whatnot), however as I’ve said, I did feel that the second act ran out of steam a little in places, though I did like the ultimate ending, even if it was a little far-fetched. The scripting is done well and with a good pace, meaning you get a good chuckle every few moments – which helps to keep the story fresh.

As an aside, Deathtrap is oft billed as being one of Broadway’s most successful plays, and was nominated for a Tony way back when in 1978. Perhaps surprisingly, this is the first production of the play in London since it’s original 1978 outing – and it’s already generating quite a buzz around the West End.

It did all get a little bit Angela Lansbury for me at times, with the type-written title projected onto the black screen at the start of each act (very Murder She Wrote – I even hummed the theme!), plus there is a comedic psychic character in the play called Helga ten Dorp (played by Estelle Parsons), who reminded me very much of Madame Arcati (perhaps aptly, considering the venue) from Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, a role which Angela Lansbury recently also played on Broadway!

In terms of disappointment coming from the plot, as a gay man, I didn’t really identify with certain elements of the storyline in the way that I would have hoped to, with there being a distinct lack of build up and clear explanation to the motives behind the murder and the relationship between the two main characters. As I believe it, Myra is murdered so that the characters of Sydney and Clifford can get together, however when the two share an intimate moment in Act Two, it totally felt awkward and out of the blue. Maybe I’m just jealous, who knows heh.

Of course, I’m sure that many people are also interested in seeing the show thanks to it staring Broadway (and GLEE) heart-throb Jonathan Groff, and I have to say, I found him to be especially good. Not just that, but as many people may have noticed, he’s also very pleasant on the eyes – especially from seat B13, stalls 😉

As is traditional, and in line with my usual way of posting reviews, I’m going to dedicate some space to admiring the talent 😛

… and here endeth the oggling! 😛

In summation, Deathtrap is a well worthwhile production for you to go and see in my opinion – the best parts of the entire show definitely come within the closing minutes of Act One, however the play manages to complete without feeling like it’s dragging on and manages to retain the audience’s focus through-out. In fact, that sentence does it an injustice – it does engage quite well I felt, and is certainly entertaining – my favourite play in the West End at the moment I reckon.

Deathtrap is playing at the Noel Coward Theatre, London and currently booking until Saturday 22nd January 2011 (and I’m sure it’ll get an extension!). I’d very much suggest that you try to get to a cheaper preview if you can – this review is based on a super-slick second night preview performance, and I’d say there are very few changes that will be made to the staging of this come opening night.

PREVIEW TICKET PRICES  (21st August – 16th September)

£35.00, £25.00, £15.00


£49.50, £39.50, £29.50, £19.50

The play runs for approx 2 hours 20 minutes, including interval, and further information on booking can be found by clicking HERE.

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– as an aside, I went to see this play as part of an outing with the ever fabulous West End Whingers (look out for their superb review) and associated chums, all of whom it was lovely to meet – thanks for inviting me! From twitter I also met up with @batboysings and @munchkindamo for the first time having spoken online for a fair ol’ while, and it was also fab to get to know them in real life too! 😀

About Gari

Northern lad; living out in the Peak District and rediscovering life after having had a brain tumour.

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