Deathtrap has been touted as Broadway’s longest running thriller-comedy onstage, as well as being penned by Ira Levin, famed for classic works on film such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Boys from Brazil. Armed with that knowledge, I was excited to see how its debut Singapore staging would turn out.
Upon entering the Drama Centre Black Box, we were greeted with an impressive set for a black box type theatre. Although I expected only a simple backdrop with a handful of props, the team had instead assembled a grand life-sized living room, complete with fireplace, staircase, weaponry collection and ominous weather peering in; the perfect setting for a thriller (think classic Hitchcock). Set designer Karl Chaundy, a Lasalle instructor, is certainly to be commended for his work.
Deathtrap starts off innocently enough, playing and milking the audience for laughs with plenty of humour and witty one liners as our leads are introduced and the plot is set in motion. We’re introduced to Sidney Bruhl (Andrew Mowatt), a previously successful playwright, with a series of flops and writer’s block. Sidney receives a play from his student Clifford Anderson (Chris Bucko), and is convinced that it will be a hit. Sidney’s wife Myra (Elena Yeo) is introduced, and Sidney (half-jokingly) tells her that he may just have to kill Clifford for his potentially blockbuster script, eventually inviting him over to the house to discuss the play. The play, coincidentally is of course, titled Deathtrap.
Things escalate quickly from here, and chaos ensues in the household. We’re also introduced to psychic Helga ten Dorp (Bridget Fernandez) suddenly enters in a whirlwind of energy, to warn the Bruhls of terrible pain from the house. Although Myra is terrified at first, Helga’s visions are (humourously) only half right at best, and it’s obvious her visions aren’t as real as she makes them out to be. Right at the end of Act 1, multiple twists happen at once leaving the audience utterly bewildered after what initially feels like a lighthearted post-dinner murder thriller, confused about each character’s true motivations and if further twists lay down the line.
Picking up after the intermission, Act Two pieces picks up two weeks after Act One leaves off. We’re introduced to Porter Milgrim (Paul Lucas), Sidney’s attorney, and creates an air of tension around Clifford. We won’t spoil it for you, but what ensues is a battle of wits, as the two men attempt to outplay and foil the other’s plans. The fate of the play was then left in the hands of Helga and Porter.
All five cast members give commendable performances, providing the right balance of humour and tension. Personally though, Bridget Fernandez was a shining star and the highlight of the play, and was a real joy to watch. Bridget portrayed Helga’s slightly mad, psychic character brilliantly, complete with ‘mystical’ foreign accent and her comic timing and facial expressions spot on, expertly weaving humour into the tensest of moments.
Overall, I found the play to be good fun, with dark and biting humour, but still laugh out loud. The script left me constantly on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next, with all the twists lying in wait. Deathtrap is a masterfully written work from one of the very best thriller writers, and we encourage you to check it out for a night of palpitating excitement and a good guffaw.
By Anthony P. for Bakchormeeboy
Deathtrap plays at the Drama Centre Black Box from 12-30 October. Tickets available from SISTIC