Here David Soul plays blocked playwright Sidney Bruhl who, after a string of smash-hit thrillers, is reduced to living off his wife Myra (Susan Penhaligon). Until, that is, one day when the perfect script drops through his door, care of eager young writer Clifford (Gerald Kyd.
If only Sidney could pass it off as his own, his prayers would be answered. And what better way to take ownership than by disposing of the real author as only a thriller writer would - by murdering him? But is Clifford that Sidney really wants dead? Or would his wealthy wife be a better target?
This tangled web of greed and deceit evolves into a play within a play with fantasy and reality blurring at the edges as Levin twists and turns. There's no "butler did it" premonitions here - the audience really is left guessing to the very last.
Soul, Kyd and Penhaligon interact with each other well and keep the stakes high throughout, not least thanks to Wilson's pacy direction. And the three are complemented by a wonderfully over-the-top cameo from Becky Hindley as psychic neighbour Helga ten Dorp, who predicts the whole sorry series of events - and provides most of the light-hearted moments to ease the tension.
Andrew Leigh's set displays some fine attention to detail - notably the brick fireplace and "burning" fire, and the collection of weaponry so important to the plot (what else would a thriller writer collect?). His lighting design is less effective - too often the characters disappear into unnecessary gloom. The video clips that separate the scenes do, however, provide a nice touch.
As master thrillers go, Deathtrap sits right up there with Dial M for Murder and Sleuth and, 25 years down the line, it shows no sign of dating. At Norwich, it packed 'em in, and I confidently predict it will do similar business right across the country.
- John Lawson (reviewed at Norwich's Theatre Royal