Review: Sleuth, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton
It seems appropriate that one of the characters in Sleuth spends a significant amount of time in a clown suit, as this production milks the comic potential of Anthony Shaffer’s twisted script.
On the opening night, underwear and cushions were hurled about with reckless abandon, threatening to bring down bits of the set. And Michael Praed finally fell foul of his size 27 feet in a pratfall behind the sofa, which appeared to leave him and co-star Simon MacCorkindale as convulsed with laughter as the audience. Whether by accident or intent it was as well executed as the rest of this slickly performed show, which also relies on deliciously barbed dialogue for its humour.
Sleuth is a perverse parlour game of bluff and double bluff as upper-class crime writer Andrew Wyke (McCorkindale) seeks to humiliate his wife’s lover Milo (Praed) for having the temerity to think he can take one of his possessions.
The second half sees the hitherto malleable Milo take control of the board, playing on Andrew’s pomposity and bigotry to best him intellectually.
Despite the gum-chewing and shiny suits, Praed’s public school accent makes the class difference less pronounced, instead his status as a second generation immigrant becomes the target of his rival’s disdain.
Simon MacCorkindale is all vigour and bluster as the manipulative writer, unwilling and unable to put away both his childish things and entrenched prejudices.
Praed is low-key in comparison and seems too easily led into his host’s crackpot scheme. His final speech is a little patly delivered to truly be a coup de grâce.
However, in the footballing parlance, this is a game of two halves and it’s in the second, with the arrival of the tenacious Inspector Doppler, that Praed does indeed play a blinder.