by Marcus Lloyd
Directed by Mike Jordan
Droylsden Little Theatre
In its third offering of the season, Droylsden Little Theatre stepped away from farcical adventures and bittersweet comedies for an evening of thrilling mystery and intrigue.
Written by Marcus Lloyd, ‘Dead Certain’ tells the story of Elizabeth, a wheelchair-bound writer and ex-dancer who employs the talents of Mike, an unemployed West End actor, to ‘star’ in a reading of her play. On the surface, this seems like an easy £400 pay-packet for Mike but as both the plot, and Elizabeth’s intentions unravel, it is clear that nothing is as it seems.
In true ‘Mousetrap’ confidentiality, without wanting to give away any plot, I’ll refrain from commenting any further on the narrative - which is a clear homage to Shaffer’s ‘Sleuth.’
Suspense built steadily, layer upon layer, in Act 1 as it soon became apparent that nothing could be taken for granted. With the boundaries of truth and fantasy well and truly blurring, the members of the audience were left on the edge of their seats as the play accelerated through each new twist and turn until the shocking climax of Act 2.
Set in Elizabeth’s isolated country house, the set design gave the audience a well-furnished office-cum-reception room. With walls bedecked with theatre posters, the set was simple and pleasing, with enough decoration left to manoeuvre the electric wheelchair around. I wouldn’t have said ‘country house,’ more London apartment, although the dialogue indicated differently.
Props, such as programmes, decanters and office paraphernalia all suited and the guns were most effective. The shattering of the glass was a great effect and certainly shattered the tension, as did the shooting of the mannequin: great!
A very simple lighting plot by Tony Birch indicated passage of time through the outside window, which was important in the dénouement of the play as both the audience and Mike questioned everything, including time itself. The snap black and quick tabs at the end were perfect.
Sound effects were also minimal but both acts were punctuated by the tense ticking of a clock. Showtunes played when the house lights were up (‘West Side Story’ as the show finished: a good touch!) which immersed us in the ‘world of the theatre’ of the play.
In an extended verbose game of cat-and-mouse, Richard Parker and Claire White took on the two roles with seeming ease and rapid-fire dialogue. Both very comfortable with the complex and repetitive speech, our actors gave two confident performances of multi-dimensional, and tormented, characters.
Richard’s unravelling of Mike built beautifully as controll slipped away from him and into Elizabeth’s hands. His ‘drunk’ scenes were well-measured and not too over the top and his angry, broken, outburst a sharp contrast from the arrogant self-confidence of the character in Act 1. His confusion and horror at the realisation of the situation was clearly presented as he questioned his identity, his memory and ultimately, his sanity. Great playing, Richard!
From her systematic unsettling to her bitter and spiteful ramblings, Claire’s vengeful presentation of Elizabeth both unsettled and enamoured the audience. Unsure as to whether we were meant to sympathise or despise Elizabeth, Claire’s divers portrayals confounded the audience and heightened the tension in Act 2, with her menace subtly foreshadowed earlier in the play. A perfectly creepy, cool and controlled performance - and expertly in control of the electric wheelchair!
Thank you to DLT once again for a thrilling evening and such a welcome reception. I look forward to the next production in what has already been an excellent season!