Murder Mystery Makes you Jump Out of your Seat

“A gifted director couldn’t even harm it.” 

Sidney Bruhl

“I could be a murderer but not a Broadway producer!”

Sidney Bruhl


Nick Waring as Sidney Bruhl. (Photo: Andreas Lambis)

The barn converted into a study attached to a Westport, Connecticut farmhouse is Michael Holt’s marvellous set for this revival of Ira Levin’s 1978 Deathtrap at the iconic Mill at Sonning. It is here that crime playwright Sidney Bruhl is finding himself blocked in terms of writing his next Broadway hit.  Bruhl also lectures to would be writers. One of his students, Clifford Anderson (George Watkins) has sent in a particularly promising script to Bruhl. 

Sidney Bruhl lives with his rich wife Myra (Emily Raymond) whose inheritance subsidises Sidney’s lifestyle when his royalties are not rolling in.  So he has two problems, writer’s block and a lack of his own money.

This is a very challenging play to write about without spoilers but I can at least describe the perfect crime writer’s set with the walls decorated with every kind of revolver, rifle, blunderbuss, sword, hatchet; knives, handcuffs, cross bow and arrows each set in a display case and lined up on the walls.  We could be in the armoury at the London Dungeon, but are they still in working order?

George Watkins as Clifford Anderson. (Photo: Andreas Lambis)

The suspenseful scream from me came in the first act as a surprise I didn’t see coming despite having seen this play in 2010 with Simon Russell Beale as Sidney Bruhl and Jonathan Groff as Clifford Anderson.

The cast at Sonning are joined by two more.  Issy van Randwyck plays dotty local psychic and nosy neighbour, Helga ten Dorp.  Her Dutch accent is of course perfect but her pronouncements not always so to us, although Helga does believe in herself and her bizarre intuition. The fourth character is a nervous lawyer, Porter Milgrim (Peter Childs) who brings comic relief. 

A kiss between two of the men was inserted into the film of Deathtrap between actors Christopher Reeve, later Superman, and Michael Caine.  This was not in Ira Levin’s script but has been included in later productions.  Ira Levin’s two sons have, on occasions, taken theatres to task for misconstruing their father’s work. 

Nick Waring as Sidney Bruhl (Photo: Andreas Lambis)

The second act is less powerful but Ira Levin neatly ties up the ends in his mystery play. Tam Williams as director makes good use of the set but he might wish for more verve from his two male leads. Maybe they are more exciting on the page than the stage?

There is creepy atmospheric music from Graham Weymouth and Henry Horn both of whom also keep the lighting very low, almost too low for me to write legible notes except that I can read, “Great Scary Moment”.  It is good to see murder mystery plays done at the Mill, the perfect post prandial entertainment after a delicious supper. 

Issy van Randwyk as Helga ten Dorp. (Photo: Andreas Lambis)

Production Notes


Written by Ira Levin

Directed by Tam Williams



Nick Waring

George Watkins

Emily Raymond

Issy van Randwyck

Philip Childs


Director: Tam Williams

Set Designer: Michael Holt

Costume Designer: Natalie Titchener

Sound and Lighting Designer: 

Graham Weymouth and Henry Horn

Fight Director: Jonathan Leverett


Running Time: Two hours including the interval

Booking to 30th March 2024


The Mill at Sonning Theatre 

Sonning Eye


RG4 6TY 


Box Office: (0118) 969 8000

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Mill at Sonning

on 16th February 2024