By Anthony Shaffer, a Kanata Theatre production, directed by Beverley Brooks
There’s more than one reason for seeing Kanata Theatre’s revival of Sleuth.
The first is Dale MacEachern’s robust performance as the scheming Andrew Wyke, a flamboyant crime novelist with a deadly penchant for game playing.
The second is provided by Jarrod Chambers as the hapless victim of this gamesmanship, a guy named Milo Tindle who’s been messing about with Andrew’s wife and ends up being drawn into an infernal web as a result.
The third reason is provided by the solid contribution of director Bev Brooks in serving the peculiar demands of Anthony Shaffer’s 1970 play.
The fourth comes courtesy of designer Karl Wagner, whose two-level recreation of a Wiltshire country home is marvellously detailed and atmospheric, making it a fitting venue for the dark doings driving this play.
And finally there’s the skill with which the production brings off Sleuth’s big surprise, a shocker that contributed mightily to the play’s huge success in London’s West End and later on Broadway.
Indeed, before the evening is completed, the play will spring further surprises — and that’s why a fair-minded review can’t say that much more about Sleuth.
It is, however, safe to say that audiences can justly enjoy Dale MacEachern’s strutting, posturing, narcissistic tour de force and that they will also be applauding the confidence and versatility of Jarrod Chambers’s contribution to the evening’s success.
Director Bev Brooks has wisely kept the piece in period — not a cell phone in view, thank the gods. But although this play — the biggest success from the twin brother of Amadeus author Peter Shaffer — still works as an imaginatively crafted thriller, it may be losing some of its original edge. In writing it, Anthony Shaffer was also offering a mischievous send-up of the conventions of the so-called Golden Age of the detective story, as represented on stage by the reactionary Andrew Wyke. But one wonders now about the script’s references to the likes of author R. Austin Freeman and The Red Thumb Mark or that obscure fictional detective John Ringrose. Apart from genuine aficionados, do they strike any chord at all with modern audiences? The same question may be asked concerning the script’s underlying wit, so firmly anchored to its time that’s in danger of falling flat today.
Still one can’t quibble too much — the production remains outstanding.
Sleuth continues at the Ron Maslin Playhouse to Feb, 17.
Director: Bev Brooks
Costumes: Maxine Ball
Lighting: Evan Nearing
Sound: Robert Fairbairn
Original Music: Robert Mitchell
Set Design: Karl Wagner
Andrew Wyke: Dale MacEachern
Milo Tindle: Jarrod Chambers
Inspector Doppler: James Knowlton
Detective Sergeant Tarrant: Ian Redpath
Constable Higgs: Rohan Brooks