ANTHONY SHAFFER’s first play was an instant smash hit when it opened in London in 1970 and picked up a Tony award for Best Play during its four-and-a-half year run on Broadway, so it’s not surprising that its revival at the Watermill is playing to packed houses.
It’s a tale of twists and turns that is both full of comedy yet also dark and sinister, and this cast tells it with consummate skill.
The millionaire mystery writer Andrew Wyke invites his wife’s lover to his country mansion on the pretext of seeking his participation in a scheme that would make them both a lot of money. He proposes a fake burglary involving the theft of his wife’s ruby necklace, followed by a fraudulent insurance claim. But when Milo Tindle arrives, the mind games begin and the audience is drawn into a web of deception and manipulation that the protagonists compare to a game of tennis as each strives to score points off the other.
Richard Attlee gives a masterly performance as Wyke, being both playful and sinister as he toys with his victim, while Matthew Spencer’s Tindle develops impressively from the ingénu into something far more treacherous as he grasps the peril of his situation. The plot is full of surprises, and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats right to the final moments.
As always at the Watermill this is a first-class production, excellently directed by Jessica Swale. The set (Wyke’s sitting room) is superb with its oak panelling, antique furniture and effects, and good music, composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge, added greatly to the emotional roller-coaster that the audience experienced.
Sleuth runs until March 23. Box Office 01635 46044 or visit www.watermill.org.uk