Review: DEATHTRAP, The Mill at Sonning

Ira Levin's classic comedy-thriller brings screams and laughs in The Mill at Sonning's latest revival.

By: Feb. 19, 2024
Review: DEATHTRAP, The Mill at Sonning
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Review: DEATHTRAP, The Mill at Sonning From the man behind Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin's Deathtrap has scared and intrigued audiences since premiering in 1978. One of Broadway’s most successful plays and even spawning a film adaptation, The Mill at Sonning's latest production directed by Tam Williams proves why it still makes audiences scream and laugh today.

Down of his luck playwright Sidney Bruhl has found the latest hit in murder thriller,  Deathtrap. The only problem is it isn't his script. Inviting student Clifford to his office with murderous intentions, Sidney's drive to stage a killer play leads him down a path of twists with bloody consequences.

A play by and for writers, Levin's self-referential script features biting dialogue that many budding auteurs are still sure to resonate with. Calling out and featuring plot conventions to the point of self-deprecation, it makes the twists and thrills that left some attending the press night screaming even more exciting to watch. Once the lack of tension of the opening two scenes quickly subsides, you're left on the edge of your seat as Bruhl plans his next move to make the next big theatrical hit.

Review: DEATHTRAP, The Mill at Sonning

With two acts split into six scenes, Tam Williams‘ direction deftly balances meta humour with suspense and tension as its pacing swiftly moves through scenes with even a reference to dinner theatre bringing laughs. While the reasons behind act one scene three's twist may have been downright scandalous when it first opened in 1978, it's no less effective today in part thanks to the extreme meticulousness in Bruhl's planning.

All the action takes place in Sidney Bruhl's well dressed Connecticut office, creatively brought to life by Michael Holt. Adorned with prop guns, battleaxes, theatre posters (Only Murders in the Building fans are sure to love one certain Easter Egg) and a pair of plot critical Houdini handcuffs against blood red walls, there's plenty for wandering eyes to ponder at what will come next with the many literal Chekov guns and red herrings on display. Adding to the eery atmosphere is Henry Horn's brilliant sound design and lighting design, with small details from flashing lights in the stained glass windows and a pulsating heartbeat creeping in the tenser moments.

Nick Wareing carries much of Deathtrap as Sidney Bruhl, engaging and cunning through the subtlest facial expression as he plans his next move. George Watkins is assured and confident as protégé and aspiring playwright Clifford, while Emily Raymond captures concern and fright as Sidney's put-upon wife of eleven years Myra. However, Issy van Randwyck is a real standout as comedic relief neighbour and psychic Helga ten Dorp. Rounding out Deathtrap's five-piece ensemble is Philip Childs as Porter Milgrim.

An entertaining play that still packs a punch over 40 years later, this revival of Deathtrap is spectacularly staged and executed thanks to Tam William’ clever direction and fantastic five-piece cast. The Mill at Sonning's intimacy adds to Levin's suspenseful and thrilling story, meaning you may want to bring a friend along if you get easily scared.

Deathtrap runs at The Mill at Sonning until March 30.

Photo Credits: Andreas Lambis