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Death Trap | Mill at Sonning

Death Trap, written by the late American playwright Ira Levin and directed by Tan Williams, is an incredible thriller that has you on the edge of your seat throughout the play. The plot follows the entangled lives of famous and paranoid thriller playwright Sidney Bruhl (Nick Waring), his ambitious wife Myra Bruhl (Emily Raymond) and the younger, upcoming and brilliant playwright Clifford Anderson (George Watkins). Other characters include the intuitive lawyer Porter Milgrim (Philip Childs) and the odd but calculating psychic Helga Ten Dorp (Issy Van Randwyck).

Waring has a strong stage presence, captivating the audience with his dramatic flair, incredible acting and excellent ability to use undertones. His paranoia leads to a series of messy events, but Waring's performance manages to almost justify his decisions. Randwyck delivers a commendable performance as the psychic Helga. However the show's standout performer is Watkins as Clifford Anderson who brings a raw emotion to his performance. At the heart of the play, Watkins shines equally brightly as the sweet and naive student and the menacing and betrayed man. 

Split into two acts and six scenes (three in each act), the show is quite easy to follow and is clear with the narrative pacing and flow. The script is intelligent, carefully weaving in clever word play, subtle traces of foreshadowing, potential sub plots and a fun dosage of satirical self awareness.  Often making jokes at its own expense for the entertainment of the audience, the show leans slightly into the exaggerated jokes about "dinner theatre" and mocking of "act one". In a particularly fun and quick conversation, two characters discuss how to best exceed audience expectations for the second act. 

The show is contained in one room, Bruhl's study, and is meticulously designed by Michael Holt. With posters, props and artefacts from previous shows that Bruhl has written, the study showcases the passionate, almost fanatic, nature of Bruhl towards his writing. Additionally these collected props are mostly weapons (some still functional), ranging from daggers and guns, to maces and crossbows, adding to the already tense story unfolding between the characters. Each of the posters and props contribute to the show in some form, whether indirectly or directly. 

The sound and lighting design is exquisitely done by Graham Weymouth. Bestowing upon the audience a rather impressive stormy night and jump scare moments, the sound and lighting decisions elevates the show and really solidifies the standard of Death Trap. There's a stand out moment in the first act, between Sidney, Myra and Clifford, where high tension was inescapable.

The show is done so well, with the anxiety and tension seeping into the audience and the audience clings onto every word, every action and subtlety in the play. Death Trap is a brilliantly thrilling thriller which currently plays at the Mill Theatre in Sonning, Reading until the 30th of March. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Andreas Lambis


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