Funny, tense and in places downright surprising, Nottingham Playhouse’s revival of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth is full of twists and turns that will leave you yearning for more even after the curtain falls. A masterful manipulation of tension and intrigue, this play is one of the best I have ever seen, and makes amazing use of the talents of all involved to create a truly impressive performance.

The play follows the story of Andrew Wyke (played by Miles Richardson), a popular mystery writer obsessed with the games and trickery, whose wife is having an affair with Milo Tindle (portrayed by James Alexandrou). Wyke invites Tindle to his country holdings, and so begins a game of cat and mouse that escalates throughout the play. Nothing is as it seems in this production, and there are constant shocks and surprises throughout that keen the audience on the edge of their seats. Tension is a huge part of this play, and it constantly builds throughout; there are a lot of laughs to be had in the first half of the play, but ultimately it becomes a lot darker and sobering, with one hell of a final twist.

One of the most interesting aspects of this production is that the entire thing plays out against one sole set: Wyke’s house. The set is formed around a rotating central structure, around which the entirety of the action takes place and it is done so magnificently. Richardson uses various buttons and controls that seamlessly blend into the set to control the movement of the central structure, and it is used to great effect, adding to the tension and intrigue of the overall performance.

“Wainwright successfully differentiated between the different sub-settings of the play”

It is also worth mentioning the audio and visual effects of this production. With the limited set choices, it is down to the AV (designed by Simon Wainwright) to help perfect the setting and impression of it. Using three large screens, Wainwright successfully differentiated between the different sub-settings of the play, and helped to add to both the comedy and tension of the play itself. The music (composed and directed by Johnathan Girling), though not a huge part of the play’s overall performance, also aids, with minimalist drums and sounds reinforcing the tension of pivotal scenes within the action.

“Richardson especially created a truly convincing persona within the first minutes of the play”

What really bring this performance together, though, are the actors. Richardson and Alexandrou work together magnificently, and it’s clear that the two of the them mesh brilliantly in order to create amazing exchanges that really bring this play to life. The two are able to change the moods and feelings of their characters in a heartbeat, and it is through their acting that much of the tension and intrigue of the play appear. Richardson especially created a truly convincing persona within the first minutes of the play, and instantly allowed the audience to settle into the setting and plot. This limited cast have managed to pull off Sleuth very impressively, and should be applauded for what they have achieved.

“Never before have I felt tension as tangibly as I did in the audience tonight”

This reworking of Sleuth is amazing. No two ways about it. The acting, setting and AV all combine to create a truly brilliant performance that I will remember for years to come. Never before have I felt tension as tangibly as I did in the audience tonight, or experienced such masterful crafting of a story to create such an impressive end result. If Sleuth is anything to go by, Nottingham Playhouse’s Sweet Vengeance Season promises to be amazing, and I can’t wait to see more.


Ellen Smithies

Image courtesy of Nottingham Playhouse.

‘Sleuth’ is running at the Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham until Saturday the 24th of September. For more information and to book tickets, see here

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