Anthony Shaffer's SLEUTH

by Wayne MacEachern

Until August 23rd
at the Waterfront Theatre,
Granville Island, Vancouver

While kids played games in the park and lovers played games in the restaurants I prepared to enjoy one of the most intriguing games of all -- a murder mystery at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island.

Evergreen Theatre's performance of the mystery-thriller “Sleuth” provides a glimpse into the struggles of one-upmanship and social game-playing that typifies male insecurities. The 1970 play written by Anthony Shaffer has a proven track record, having won a Tony Award, and later, attracting accomplished actors Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier in the 1972 movie version.

Director Robert Metcalfe, however, fails to execute the full mystery aspects of the original script.

In spite of some rather large and obvious holes in the proposed scheme, William Samples as the wily mystery writer Andrew Wyke and Ted Cole as the naive, philandering travel agent Milo Tindle do manage to engage in a Battle Royale of wits that involves some stimulating twists and turns. But in order for an audience to embrace the mystery and to experience the performance as one that involves clever, air-tight scheming, the execution must be thorough, which was not so, in this particular performance.

There are, however, some truly wonderful lines delivered by both actors. Mr. Cole demonstrated an impromptu agility in slapstick, while dancing with a 20 ft. ladder.

The set design was unique in that it incorporated mythology and games while creating an atmosphere of fear and terror. Unfortunately, the air-conditioning system constantly caused the skirting around the stage to collapse, thus regularly interrupting the concentration of those of us in the first few rows. The gunpowder explosion reminded me more of an Aromatherapy Boutique in Kitsilano.

But all in all, the audience seemed stimulated by the games on the stage.

In the end, the final laugh was on the audience: it was a 4 foot doll-like creature known as Jolly Jock Tar the Jovial Sailor that delivered it. Immediately I recalled two of the best lines from the script. Andrew Wyke, speaking of his wife, said: “Margarite couldn’t get Johann Strauss to waltz.”; and later he proclaimed that “Sex is the game and marriage is the penalty.”

In the case of this version of “Sleuth”, Director Robert Metcalfe couldn’t get Inspector Poirot to investigate this murder; and mystery may be the game, but a play with so many loose ends is the penalty.