Deathtrap is funny, furious and juicy (4 stars)

Deathtrap

credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Johnny McKnight's knotty, naughty take on the 1978 Ira Levin play

Tickling thriller tropes into submission, Johnny McKnight proves that he's not just a purveyor of panto for the Christmas season.

This seems from the outset like a classic American farce,with Lewis Howden's avuncular playwright Sidney Bruhl cracking wise as the veneer of his marriage cracks. But as Kenny Miller's gloriously pulpy, macabre set suggests, nothing is simply black and white. There are slashes of red too, and the weapons in his study aren't necessarily just displayed for decorative purposes. Bruhl hasn't had a hit play for a while, and increasingly mercenary tactics are required.

Hard to pigeonhole and enormously good fun, McKnight picks apart the cadavers of the creative process, and the tremendous cast -in particular Tom England as hotshot new playwright Clifford Anderson and a fabulous Irene MacDougall as eccentric psychic Helga Ten Dorp-ensure the kitsch never outweighs the suspense. Emily Winter is the (somewhat damaged) moral compass, eliciting shocks throughout as her neurotic but loving wife Myra Bruhl becomes a pawn in Sidney's desperate bid for success.

It's furious, funny and juicy, as the nature of fame becomes a bloody battle where nobody wins. The future is but a blank page,waiting to be filled. After forty years, Levin's brilliant satirical words still sting like paper cuts.

Deathtrap, Dundee Rep Theatre, Tues 20 Feb-Sat 10 Mar.

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