You’re playing Sidney Bruhl in the thriller Deathtrap - can you tell us about the role and its position within the narrative?
Sidney is a very successful playwright, who is going through a bad time with the proverbial writer’s block. His confidence has taken a knock, since his last 4 plays have been unsuccessful. He has written a great play -‘The Murder Game’ - that was a hit 18 years before, but he is now in a dry period, to say the least. He is now reliant on his wife’s money, and is living in an expensive part of Conneticut (Westport - an area where quite a few plays have made it to Broadway). He hits on the idea of a young playwright’s new play, which is obviously brilliant and fantastic, and starts working on it with him. There are different layers to the play from early on, and you don’t know who’s telling the truth until about half an hour in. The play really revolves around my character, and is in a lot of people’s list of five top thrillers.
How has writer Ira Levin managed to bring humour into the murder mystery?
I hope the actors manage to transfer the comedy of the script onto the stage, and that the audience pick it up. It is full of irony, people lying here and lying there in a weaved network of lies and truths. He is writing the play in an antique room full of guns and stiletto knives, so it’s a very foreboding set.
What have you most enjoyed about the rehearsal process so far?
Well, we’re still going through it. I have been in the Coliseum rehearsal room 2/3 times in the past 10 years, so I know the dynamic that is expected I am enjoying working with the other 4 actors, they are great - Helen Kay and Bobby aka Roberta Kerr (Myra Bruhl and Helga ten Dorp) have worked here before, but we have never worked together. Although I have done thrillers before, this is a very busy show with lots of props and character relationships. Hopefully we will engage an audience and keep them guessing - if they haven’t seen it before, that is!
Who would you say is the target audience for the play and why?
The thriller is a huge theatre category, so is open to a wide range of audience. Whether it’s for a young audience, I don’t know - it’s definitely not for the very young. But if you like a thriller, this is one you would like to come and see.
What do you feel are the main reasons why an audience will be entertained by the production?
I think it’s the juicy storyline that people will like. Take soaps for instance, they rehash story-lines like the ‘lesbian kiss’, but it’s the different characters doing it that makes it interesting. You can’t replicate theatre and I think that makes it stand out.
Why do you think the Coliseum is the most suitable venue for Deathtrap?
We’re half way through rehearsals and I already get a good feel for the venue - it’s perfect. But this is an early 80’s play, which was written in the late 1970’s, so it’s already had a lot of success. It ran for 4 years on Broadway and the same in the West End, so it goes in many different theatres.
How does your production differ from Ira Levin’s script?
In terms of script we’ve changed a few things. It is an American play, so the director Kevin Shaw has anglicised my part and Helen’s part.
The play was turned into a film in 1982 (starring Sir Michael Caine in your role) - what main differences are there between the original script and the filmic adaptation?
Honestly, I can’t answer as I haven’t seen the film. I’ve got it, but I just haven’t had the time to watch it. I know there is a two-male kiss in the film that isn’t in the script, but they did it in the Broadway and West End productions as well. I can only imagine that I am very different to Michael Caine and I should imagine that they used American accents. In our production, Sydney and his wife are English and have been transferred to America.
Having appeared on television and in films, what is it about the theatre that you find most endearing?
Well, if you’ve got real blood in your veins then theatre is for you as an actor. I went to drama school - London Drama Centre - in the 70s and was brought up on theatre. What I find most endearing is the main difference between theatre and the other mediums of TV, film and radio - the type of audience. Theatre never goes out of date, it’s a cultural thing and it’s very important!
What are your plans following your time at The Oldham Coliseum?
Immediately, none. I am doing a Christmas show down South, which is a 5 week job. I have 1 or 2 things that could happen, but maybe not theatre. It will be interesting to discover.
Steven Pinder was speaking to Rebecca Cohen.
Deathtrap runs at Oldham Coliseum from 8 September - 1 October.