Dundee Rep

Neil Cooper, Four stars

IF THERE was any justice, what happens in play-writing class should stay in play-writing class in Ira Levin’s 1970s comedy thriller, revived here by Dundee Rep Ensemble in Johnny McKnight’s forensically dissected production. There’s no chance of that, alas, in veteran pulp thriller hack Sidney Bruhl and his young charge Clifford Anderson’s world. Sidney has lost his mojo following a series of flops, but when he reads a play called Deathtrap by wannabe genius Clifford, he smells a hit. With wife and apparent accomplice Myra in tow, Sidney concocts a half-jokey plot to kill the kid and pass off his play as his own.

What follows as Levin’s yarn twists and turns its way towards a not entirely inevitable denouement is so darn knowing it practically winks at an audience who lap up this sort of thing. Like an extended episode of Inside No 9 as directed by Ryan Murphy, Levin’s post-modern high-jinks are plotted like a well-oiled if somewhat eccentric machine programmed to surprise the audience and raise the stakes as high as you like.

With type-writers to the fore, Kenny Miller’s set is a grandiloquent 3D masterpiece of retro-vintage chic that becomes the suitably dramatic backdrop for the scene of a crime that’s never over-done by McKnight. As Sidney, Lewis Howden is an avuncular but sly old fox, with Emily Winter’s Myra egging him on like a Stepford Lady Macbeth. Thomas England’s preppy Clifford may be too smart for his own good, but it’s left to Ewan Donald’s oily lawyer to count the cost. The only person in the room who can really see what’s coming next is Swedish psychic next door Helga ten Dorp, here given an eye-popping cameo by a deadpan Irene Macdougall in an obsessive piece of psychotic largesse.