Tag Archives: Ben and Max Ringham

Deathtrap

reviewed at the Palace Theatre, Westcliff on 27 September

Envy is a prime reason for murder, at least on the stage. What gives Ira Levin’s Deathtrap the edge over many other thrillers is the particular context – a successful playwright who has apparently lost his winning streak and an eager young dramatist to may just have discovered his.

This new Salisbury Playhouse production directed by Adam Penford has its audience in its grip from the opening clap of sound (Ben and Max Ringham) which is guaranteed to put us all in full listening mode.

Morgan Large’s set has its own surprises as well are faced by Paul Bradley’s deceptively teddy-bear Sidney Bruhl and his understandably spiky wife Myra (Jessie Wallace).

Fresh-faced Clifford Anderson is soon on the scene, happy to listen to advice, though not necessarily to embrace it. The other two characters are émigrée  mystic Helga ten Dorp, with whom Beverley Klein has a great deal of over-the-top fun, and stuck-in-a-rut lawyer Porter Melgrim (Julien Ball).

As Sidney remarks in his first lines, a new play with one set, two acts, five characters and a fresh plot cannot help but be a success. What Penford and his cast bring out is some sense of the creative process where the goal is somehow just a revision or elision away, but never yet quite there.

That sense of something somehow missing is what keeps an audience focussed in its own quest for the elusive.

Four and a half-star rating.

Deathtrap continues at the Palace Theatre, Westcliff until 30 September with matinées on 28 and 30 September. It can also be seen at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester between 30 October and 4 November.

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Gaslight
reviewed Cambridge Arts Theatre on 13 February

Torture is a chameleon. We think of it as mainly physical, but it can also be psychological, or these two facets can combine. Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight is what one would now define as a psychological thriller, with its story of three people all obsessed, though in very different ways.

The central character is young wife Bella Manningham (Kara Tointon), increasingly aware that her mother (who died lunatic in an asylum) may have left her a poisonous legacy. Her apparently concerned husband of seven years Jack (Rupert Young) has his own agenda, which may include his pert parlourmaid Nancy (Charlotte Blackledge).

Retired police sergeant Rough (Keith Allen) sees connexions to a horrific but unsolved murder several decades ago. He sees a chance to bring the case which still haunts him to its proper conclusion, but for that he needs a reliable ally.

Many of us will have seen this 1938 drama before, whether on stage (it was a repertory theatre favourite) or in one of its screen adaptations. The 2017 director has to allow his audience the chance to preen itself of seeing what is coming while maintaining the suspense and conveying theatrical conviction. In this Anthony Banks succeeds splendidly.

He’s assisted by David Woodhead’s box-set, cleverly lit by Howard Hudson, and by Ben and Max Ringham’s sound design, an eerie combination of the natural and the suggestively sinister. All the cast give committed performances with a many-nuanced and vocally inflected one by Tointon just having the edge on Allen’s apparently bluff policeman.

Blackledge’s Nancy is a study of a girl on the make, balanced by Helen Anderson’s portrait of the housekeeper Elizabeth. I think I would have liked Young to be just a trifle more the charming – as well as apparently concerned – husband in his early scenes with Tointon; it’s one nudge in the audience’s ribs too many.

If you’ve never sen Gaslight or have dismissed it as an old warhorse well passed it prime, then go to see this staging. It achieves balance – and that’s much rarer in the theatre these days than one might imagine.

Four and a half star rating

Gaslight continues at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge until 18 February with matinées on 15 and 18 February. The national tour continues until 18 March.

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Jeeves & Wooster: Perfect Nonsense

reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds on 2 September

The title sums up this confection to perfection – it’s a piece of fluff as light as any soufflé whipped up by Anatol, master chef of Bertie Wooster’s battleship of an aunt, but there’s been a great deal of hard work and skill in its making. David Goodale is the tour director for this post-West End promenade through the regions with the design team of Alice Power (set and costumes), James Farncombe (lighting) and Ben and Max Ringham (music and sound) working their own particular blend of magic.

Matthew Carter is ou hero – if you can call him that. Much of the fun of the evening comes from Joseph Chance’s imperturbable and erudite Jeeves and Robert Goodale’s doddering Seppings. Both actors take on a bewilderingly hilarious variety of roles, both male and female, as Bertie tries to help a fellow Drones member to revive his faltering engagement and retrieve a Georgian silver cow-creamer coveted by both his uncle and an irascible JP.

The fiancée in question just happens to be the JP’s daughter; one of those apparently delicate flapper flowers who knows just what she wants and how to get it – as does her cousin Stephanie.Those multitudinous costume and set changes whisk along in a clever faux-naïf fashion, as though Bertie and his chums were indulging in a spurt of country house or varsity am dram. it’s just what you need to take your mind off the weather.

Jeeves & Wooster: Perfect Nonsense
runs at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds until 5 September and also plays at the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich from 13 to 17 October and the Mercury Theatre, Colchester between 30 October and 1 November.

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