Deathtrap – Sydney Fringe (Theatre Review)
Exit Game Productions and King Street Theatre
Sydney Fringe. This productions run is complete, but you can find out more about it here.
This review contains spoilers
Images: Stephen Reinhardt
Exit Game Productions saw fit to bring Deathtrap to our stages again for the 2017 Fringe festival. Deathtrap is a fun piece, playing with wit against the notions that theater should be more than entertainment. Speaking to a kind of raw competitiveness that might exist in playwrighting, it equally has some perverse things to say about homosexuality, but is old enough now to be seen as conforming to an era. Deathtraps simplistic appeal to the cult of entertainment becomes its savior, as its takes a strangely conservative position on the physical nature of homosexuality, despite the gay relationship between Clifford and Sidney being central to the plot. Indeed, the gay relationship plays more as anti-female, than truly homosexual by avoiding overtures toward the sexual act, and connecting cultural intellect with the eradication of the feminine. It is worth remembering that as recently as 2012, Ira Levin’s estate withdrew rights from the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian center for using brief nudity in a way that implied Sidney and Clifford were having sex.
Deathtrap, at least in its first half, becomes more about freeing a cultural, intellectual man from his relationship with the woman who stifles him. Sidney is such an unpleasant sort of chap we never feel complete sympathy for him, but there is no doubt, the murder of his wife takes on a comic twist despite his unpleasantness, following act one. The audience connects with Clifford however, who is equally accountable for Myra’s murder. Indeed, if the role of Helga ten Dorp isn’t carefully performed (as it is in this production) we are in danger of following Clifford’s lead and refusing her also. But Ira Levin plays with our histories again, and makes her the hero of the play, in all her witchy, twitchy intuitive femininity. What is so clever about Deathtrap any and all of our notions are upended by the play even as they surface.
This production then, by Exit Game calls forth some marvelous new questions about Deathtrap, but more why we love it so much. The writing is so clever, so layered, it takes a strong theatre company to reveal new insights, but they are there to be found if searched for, and it’s a real pleasure to have fun with the complexities Ira Levin places in our laps. Performances by Nicholas Gledhill, Denise Kitching, Cassady Maddox, Amrik Tumber and Catherine Waters are all spot on (it’s a nice twist to have a female play Porter Milgrim). Director Debbie Smith uses the set well, giving us the impression of a larger room and a larger world, despite the clever claustrophobics written by Levin.
If you don’t know the play Deathtrap, here is a fine opportunity for you to see it. If you do know the play, here is an excellent opportunity for you to revisit it and see some witty insights missed by other productions. If Deathtrap is anything its lots of fun and a great piece to mull over into the night after.