Critics Circle 2016 – 17
Critics Circle allows young people to join a small group of reviewers to watch Playhouse work, get insight from the creative and production team, and build up their confidence as writers and reviewers.
Critics Circle is now in its 16th year. This year’s editor is Lauren Wilson and she opens this years’ reviews with her own thoughts on Sleuth…
WHO’S PLAYING WHO?
Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth is a rollercoaster of a play that is as full of twists and turns as the revolving stage on which it is set.
Directed by Giles Croft and designed by Barney George, this version of the 1970s murder detective piece is brought into the modern day through the use of video technology and an underlying idea of arranging your life through the push of a button.
The plot revolves around two male characters, Andrew Wyke and Milo, who take great pleasure in playing with the emotions of one another during a meeting at a grand estate house; and their two actors, Miles Richardson and James Alexandrou (respectively), who seemingly delight in performing these roles and taking their audience from high to low in the drop of a (clown’s) hat.
This energy was present throughout the performance I enjoyed on the 13th September at the Nottingham Playhouse, being lost only briefly during a scene of disguise, before reappearing for the remainder of the play. It’s tense, edge-of-your seat stuff, that really does have you asking ‘what will he think of next?’
Having said that, I can’t help but think that the plot could fall flat were it not for the rabbit warren of a set designed by Barney George and lit by Alexandra Stafford. Transforming at a push of a big red button, it maintains the pace of the play to keep up with the scheming of the two main characters and the intrigue of the audience.
It’s a shame that some of the humour was lost within this magnificent set, which seemed to swallow up the actors’ voices at times, particularly that of Miles Richardson.
But I’ve already given away too much…. if you like to find yourself in a dark space, biting your nails in anticipation of the next second of the action that is being expertly played out before you on a stage, you should make yourself an appointment with ‘the Sleuth’ immediately!
But what did our new young critics make of it? Read on and find out…
Lauren Wilson, Critics Circle Editor 2016 – 17
WAS THE PLOT THICK ENOUGH?
Kicking off the Sweet Vengeance season at the Nottingham Playhouse, Sleuth is a classic and commended thriller by Anthony Shaffer first performed in 1970 and now brought to Nottingham’s stage by director Giles Croft. The play is solely set in a Wiltshire manor house, home to Andrew Wyke (Miles Richardson), an affluent mystery writer. He invites his wife’s lover, Milo Tindle (James Alexandrou), to visit and from there ‘the plot thickens’. The play follows the twisted games they play on each other, going as far as making the other fear for his life.
I thought both Richardson and Alexandrou carried this two-man show very strongly; Richardson especially had an incredible constant energy and pace. He portrayed the part of the mad games-obsessed writer clearly. However, in moments I found him not entirely believable as Wyke, though this may have been due to the grotesque nature of his character. I enjoyed Alexandrou’s performance too and thought he did extremely well in scenes of great tension and distress. However, I didn’t get as much of a clear actual character and personality from him.
The set and video design on this piece, by Barney George and Simon Wainwright, were my favourite elements of the show. The large buttons that when pressed moved props and pieces of set around on the stage felt much like a Wallace and Gromit invention, and the large rotating back area of the stage spun to reveal different rooms, bookshelves and a large staircase. I loved the depth this gave the stage and the way it transformed the set into the purpose for any particular scene. Furthermore, George did an amazing job with details, down to the multitudes of small ornaments and gun rack that rotated past whilst the rooms changed. Wainwright’s video use also really added to the production, sometimes enhancing the themes of games and secrets, also making the set changes ever more dramatic.
YOU WIN OR YOU DIE IN THE GAME OF LIFE!
From the multifunctional set to the Artaudian-style imagery left to dwell in your mind this is well and truly a masterpiece by director Giles Croft and assistant director Natasha Hyman. On the13th September 2016 at Nottingham Playhouse ‘Sleuth’ had the audience full of emotions – shock, denial, confusion and many others.
The set of the piece really helped to enhance it. With its imaginative uses and buttons it really intrigues, encouraging the audience to ask what else it can do! One thing that stood out was the fireplace, in black and white with an old film effect. For me this symbolised the darkness of the play and also set the time, as though the colour of the stage would be in black and white representing how we would normally see it, thrusting the audience straight into the late 60s into what most would know from TV as a black and white world.
Both actors were highly consistent throughout giving very strong characterisations.
There were also projections used on the back wall and on the walls of the mansion; these help to create a link from the time it is set to the modern-day audience. They also worked very well alongside the technology inside the mansion, one feature being a constantly rolling wallpaper almost acting as camouflage to give the mansion different purposes and uses.
Overall this was a highly thought-provoking piece of theatre whilst giving many comedic elements alongside the complex narrative. ‘Sleuth’ works well with audiences of many different ages, all being able to get from the piece their own understanding and learning to take back into the real world. The whole play has been directed in a unique way which makes it engaging right until the end, and makes it stick in your mind even days later due to the amount of different features and highly visual images. I would certainly see more plays directed by both Giles Croft and Natasha Hyman!
THOUGHTS ON SLEUTH
During the piece there was very little music. This meant that when there was music it created drama and emphasised the mood. It made the audience feel concerned that something bad might happen even though the music is really subtle and you don’t tend to focus on it.
The set is very clever and unique which causes the audience to wonder how it is made and how it works. The use of the moving armchair, table and sideboard with the alcohol on was ingenious, and created space on the stage.
Naturalistic lighting enhanced the set. Clever projections that symbolised the mood and atmosphere made the audience feel as though they are there with the characters in the house and this made it more interesting to watch.
This play is unusual because it only has two actors and between them they are still able to create suspense and drama. This was interesting to see. I liked the way the actors used the moving parts of the set. They interacted well together and kept the audience intrigued.
I really enjoyed the performance and can’t think of anything that could be changed to make it better or more interesting. I think it is understandable to a large age range and I would recommend the show to others.
ANTHONY SHAFFER’S SLEUTH- A TALE OF TWISTS AND TURNS
The Nottingham Playhouse open their Sweet Vengeance season with the intriguingly funny ‘Sleuth’ by Anthony Shaffer. This masterpiece has been put to rest for nearly 40 years and is now re-awoken to delight audiences once again.
Our two actors central to taking on the task of bringing this tale to life are James Alexandrou as Milo and Miles Richardson as Andrew Wyke. Andrew is an eccentric mystery writer who sees the world as one whole intrinsic game. Milo is placed into his game when he is invited, quite out of the blue, to Andrew’s country pile. With no clue what this game entails, what exactly is waiting for our dear Milo?
Set in the original timeline of the late 60s to early 70s, director Giles Croft intends for the set, lights, sounds and actors to transport you to a world where the thin line of morality is decidedly more fragile. The set has a subtle ‘steam punk’ style, as it is designed to spin at the push of a button and a very well hidden set of buttons at that. The subtlety of the buttons is partly due to the lights drawing your eyes to the other parts of the ever-twisting set and the barely noticeable background music giving the scene even more intrigue.
James and Miles lead a strong cast and give their difficult characters the language and movement necessary to hold our attention throughout the whole of the two acts, drawing us even closer to the events unfolding before our very eyes.
Giles Croft states that he is “delighted to be directing ‘Sleuth’, it’s a play that has always intrigued and fascinated me and I have long wanted to direct it.” If you wish to see his amazing vision come to life, tickets are available from the 9th to the 24th of September. I urge you to go and see it, from the set to the lights and our amazing cast of actors, whom we are so lucky to have, you will be enthralled for every single second of this remarkable and long overdue play!
Just promise me that when you tell your friends about ‘Sleuth’, keep its secrets safe and allow them the pleasure of seeing it for themselves.
Maisie Lee Walker
Countless hands of cards and dice
Nasty tricks as cold as ice
Clown suits and hefty shoes
Police better not hear the news
Bullet, bullet, empty can
Thing just aren’t going to plan
More and more tricks being played
Starting to feel quite afraid
Slowly life’s falling apart
Man is left, no beating heart.
THIS ISN’T A GAME
This isn’t a game.
There’s no winner.
There’s no loser.
And the pain.
One has to live,
The other may die,
But both of us will hold the weapon one more time.
We’ve gone too far
And we can’t turn back.
Can I save the soul
That I once had?
This isn’t a game.
There’s no winner.
There’s no loser.
Just me and you
And one of us…
FACT OR FICTION?
After finding out that his wife has been having an affair with one Milo Tindle, Andrew Wyke lures him to his country abode to partake in a special game. After just a few hours, their “power struggle” turns into a brawl where nothing is off-limits. Later, after a missing person’s case comes to light, Inspector Doppler bids to untangle fact from fiction, truth from trickery, and murderer from victim.
James Alexandrou, portraying Andrew Wyke, shows the great struggle Wyke is facing of how to deal with his wife having an affair with a younger man. He shows this well through the emotional stages in the play, such as when Tindle orchestrates his major deception. In this scene, we see how scared Wyke gets at just the thought of wasting away in a cell for 7 years, and as Tindle reveals himself as the police officer, we see Wyke is relieved, but ready to go for another round of his and Tindle’s game.
The set was extraordinary, especially how each prop or piece of staging had a different function and that each button pulled something into the scene or pushed it out again. Ultimately, the show was a great representation of how lies and truth can be hard to untangle.
THE TRUTH OF THE SLEUTH
My brain is a game
Alert and agile
Although people say my age,
Makes me rather fragile.
You can choose if you want to play
Or just get up and leave,
Say “It’s not for me,
Perhaps another day?”
No, I really believe
“Aw, I’d better humour him,
The poor, depressed guy”.
You may call me out
But one thing you should know,
I never cheat.
Unlike you as,
Wasn’t it MY wife,
For who you were buying flowers
Last Tuesday night…?
I am a code;
Crack me and congratulations! You’ve won
But challenge me
And I’ll soon end your fun.
Because at the end of the day
When you’ve discovered there was no catch
It’s a game I’ve won
Game, Set, Match.
A GREAT GAME
Sleuth is a play set at around 1969-1970. It was written by Anthony Shaffer. The play was performed on the Nottingham Playhouse Main Stage.
Sleuth is a play about Andrew Wyke, a man who loves to play games. He finds out that his wife has been cheating on him with a younger, better looking man named Milo Tindle. So whilst his wife is out for a few nights, Andrew invites Milo around for the night to have a talk. Andrew then plays a game with Milo and events carry on from there.
The set was my favourite part about the play. I won’t say much so I don’t ruin it for you but Barney George the designer has done an absolutely fantastic job, well done to him. The set really enhanced the piece and made the house seem alive as did the music. When talking to Giles Croft, the director, he said that at first he didn’t want any music but I’m glad he changed his mind because it helped build an atmosphere.
The cast were, as always at the Nottingham Playhouse, very good. I can’t pick a favourite but I did like Miles Richardson who played Andrew Wyke. He had a very good stage presence and really made the stage his own.
Overall Sleuth was a very good and interesting piece that I really enjoyed. It was nice to see something different because I have never seen a thriller on stage. I would recommend it to teenagers and above as it is kind of scary but not too bad.
DEATH BY CLOWNS
On Tuesday, 13th September at 7pm I was sat in the theatre waiting for a new production of Sleuth to start. The Nottingham Playhouse has co-produced this play which is directed by Giles Croft and written by Anthony Shaffer.
With only two characters I didn’t know what to expect. One of the characters, Andrew Wyke is an author of mystery books with a best seller. His wealth has afforded him a very comfortable lifestyle and a house in the country. He also has a slightly dangerous love of playing games which, unknown to him, would have some quite dark consequences. The second character, Milo, is the unsuspecting lover of Andrew’s wife.
The set, created by Barney George, was quite intriguing having some strategically placed buttons which, when pushed, activated part of the scenery or a prop. Very clever. It was fun to anticipate what would happen next. The lighting was kept simple and understated and the sound effects added to the mystery and thriller causing a few jumpy moments!
I felt the play was slow to start and very heavy in dialogue however the second act definitely had me more engaged. I believe probably due to it being more visually entertaining and the conversation between the two characters sharper. I would definitely recommend this show to my parents and their friends as I think they would appreciate the mixture of humour, thriller and suspense.