Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

sleuth set

Steven Brear as Milo and Jon Richardson as Wyke. Pictures: Roy Palmer


Hall Green Little Theatre


Anthony Shaffer’s mystery thriller serves up more red herrings than a Grimsby fish market in a world where nothing is quite what it seems and everything becomes a game.

Andrew Wyke is a successful, if somewhat old-fashioned, murder mystery writer, with a long line of up market, country house murders that baffle the intellectually challenged police but are solved by an aristocratic amateur detective.

Living his upper middle-class life as the village celebrity in his country house in the Wiltshire countryside he would be right at home with Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie.

He has invited his new near neighbour Milo Tindle round for a drink. Milo is young, handsome in a sort of Latin way, the Dulwich travel agent son of a Jewish, Italian immigrant watchmaker who went bankrupt.

Wyke’s guest, or to be more precise, his adversary, has rented a nearby cottage for one simple reason – Milo is the lover of Wyke’s wife Marguerite; the pair have secret, or so they thought, twice a week liaisons in south London and the cottage is there to facilitate extra, extra marital exercise.

Marguerite intends to leave her husband and set up home with her young paramour.

That Wyke’s love for his wife is long gone, if it ever existed, becomes quickly apparent and it is hard to decide if he is warning his young guest or mocking him as he tells him of his wife’s demands and expensive tastes.

Milo, on the other hand, has the lover’s logic which sees poverty as merely a test of their love they will pass with honours . . . until Wyke starts to sow the seeds of doubt in his mind with talk of Marguerite’s Caribbean winters, her need for expensive jewellery and general high maintenance costs.

He seems delighted to be getting rid of her and the drain on his finances, but Wyke is nothing if not arrogant and possessive, so whether he has feelings for his wife or not, you start to form the impression that perhaps it is not about love or lovers or even Marguerite; it is about his wife, his thing, and someone was trying to steal it.

sleuth mid

Have a drink! A very civilised game of life and death 

Which sets the scene for the first . . . game. A deadly charade as Milo is given the chance to considerably improve his meagre finances, and Wyke engineers his deadly revenge - which gives us not only the first twist but also the interval.

The second act is pure, dark Alice in Wonderland with nothing as it seems and no one who they claim to be as we go through game after game, each deadlier than the last, bringing in police . . . or perhaps not, who knows? We have thrust and parry until the finality of the endgame where the winner is the loser whichever way you look at it.

Wyke is a part made for the ever-reliable Jon Richardson. He gives it just the right amount of arrogance as the somewhat superior novelist, looking down with open disdain on Milo, the police, and, one suspects, pretty well anyone he encounters. To him life has become a series of games which he always wants to win.

Even when he should be panicking he still finds it easier to find fault with his opponent, Milo, a man he underestimates just once too often, to both their ruin.

Steven Brear, in his second season at Hall Green, is the perfect foil, the immigrant son, half Jewish, half Italian, with the minor public school accent, taking on a games aficionado in a contest where the final prize is . . . well somewhat final.

Daniel Beaton making his directorial debut does a fine job with what is far from an easy play, keeping up a good pace and suspense, and blurring the lines between reality and gameplay well.

Steve Fisher’s set design, Wyke’s sitting room nicely balanced by a solid looking balustrade to the upper floors, has some nice touches, with games such as Trivial Pursuit tucked into the background to emphasise Wyke’s obsession.

Paul Hartop’s lighting was interesting, highlighting longer speeches, although the purpose of general dimming and brightening the lights from time to time was unclear while perhaps the ballistics, in terms of the gunshots, might benefit from a little adjustment.

Minor quibbles perhaps in what is otherwise a fine production of what Is an intriguing, clever and inventive play.

It was great fun with a dark centre in the 1972 film with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine and the fun continues, underpinning this Hall Green production with plenty of laughs, admittedly nervous at times, amid the tension. It’s a thriller where you know the suspects, and victims, from the opening moments, and the closing scene, it is just the in between that will leave you guessing. To 16-09-17

Roger Clarke


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