Many decades ago, Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth was one of the longest-running shows in London, packed every night. It swept triumphantly to Broadway, where it ruled the roost for several years. Then came the movie, several dozen revivals by both professional and amateur companies both at home and abroad. And then everything seemed to go rather quiet.
But now, in a co-production with the Nottingham Playhouse. here it is in Leeds. Sadly, age has not improved Sleuth. Far from it. As a thriller, it creaks loudly. It sits in that uneasy limbo-land of time before the advent of the mobile phone, not quite period, not yet modern.
Drink plays a huge part in the action. In fact, if the two protagonists of the first act, the author Andrew Wyke and the upstart Milo Tindle really did drink the amount they get through in just 55 minutes, they wouldn’t have been able to string three words together. This is not to say that Miles Richardson and James Alexandrou are not admirable actors, just that they are unfortunately in a play which should have remained on the shelf for another fifty years or more, when it might have stood a small chance of a short revival.
If Miles and James are the patients, then they fight a valiant fight against mortal wounds (that is, the script) and the paramedics arrive far too late. It doesn’t help that Alexandrou doesn’t rise to the surly arrogance his character requires.
West Yorkshire Playhouse
To October 15.