Murder He Wrote… comes to Tunbridge Wells

    The Trinity Theatre Club is staging their version of Sleuth by the playwright Antony Shaffer. Here the amateur dramatic club’s current director Derek Hollweg tells Eileen Leahy why audiences will love this play which is steeped in suspense

    Four times a year at Trinity Theatre a group of amateur actors stage a production that they hope will not only stretch them as performers, producers and directors but also enthral and entertain their loyal audiences. The Trinity Theatre Club, as they are collectively known, have been going since 1981 and over the years have put on productions as diverse as Noel Coward’s Blythe Spirit to Charles Webb’s The Graduate and Worzel Gummidge the Musical. They have also just received an Accolade Of Excellence from the National Operatic and Dramatic Association for their production of Dial M for Murder last year.

    Their third production so far this year is Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth, which is the writer’s most successful work, winning a prestigious Tony Award in 1971 and staged on both Broadway and in the West End.

    After its initial success, Antony wrote a successful screenplay for the film version of Sleuth which starred Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine in 1972. In 2007 Kenneth Branagh and Jude Law starred in another celluloid version of it which boasted a script by Harold Pinter.

    “The most recent West End stage production of Sleuth was in 2002,” reveals Trinity Theatre Club’s director Derek Hollweg. “This came a year after Anthony Shaffer died aged 75.

    It ran for some seven months at the Apollo Theatre and starred Ian Ogilvy and Jonathan Kerrigan.”

    So what made Trinity Theatre Club decide to revive this play which only features two characters throughout as part of their theatrical repertoire?

    “On the surface, Sleuth is a tense and intriguing battle of words, wits, and wit,” continues Derek. “The play is set in the Wiltshire country home of Andrew Wyke, a successful writer of rather old-fashioned detective stories. He is also a fanatical player of games, particularly with other people. In the first act of the play he is visited by a younger man Milo Tindle who is a weekend neighbour of his, and also Wyke’s wife’s lover.

    “The plot is essentially about these two very different people, who, through the play, seek a way to take revenge on each other, and intentionally and extremely vindictive revenge at that.”

    But it’s not just the drama that attracted Derek and his group of actors to this dramatic two man show. He goes on to say that underlying the Sleuth story are ‘strong tones of racism and class prejudice’ too.

    “It is not your normal thriller,” adds Derek. “Many commentators have called it a ‘parody of the thriller genre’ but nevertheless it is exciting and dramatic with quite a lot of action and some comic moments.” Indeed, according to Trinity Theatre Club, part of the success of Sleuth comes from Shaffer’s ‘misappropriation of the mechanics of the classic murder mystery. Working on the idea of a whodunit, Shaffer instead created the first of its kind: a whodunwhat.’

    What does Derek think the audiences going along to see it will enjoy most? “I am sure it will be good entertainment for them and that they will also appreciate the performances of the two lead actors – Matt Penfold as Andrew Wyke and James Klech as Milo Tindle – for whom the piece is exceptionally demanding.”

    Sleuth is on at Trinity Theatre until Saturday July 15. Tickets start from £15 with special discounts for concessions and members. Performances are at 7.30pm with a 2.30pm matinee on Wednesday and Saturday. For further information visit www.trinitytheatreclub.co.uk