World-In-Theatre presented Anthony Shaffer’s play Sleuth at NAFA’s Studio Theatre, from 29 November to 2 December 2012.
Sleuth tells the story of Andrew Wyke (Andrew James Mowatt), a wealthy crime novelist who invites his wife’s lover Milo Tindle (Marc Valentine Chia) to his home to discuss staging a break-in for the purposes of collecting insurance fraudulently. What ensues are twists and turns as each gentleman tries to outwit the other.
Directed by Sonny Lim, Sleuth is an exciting piece of theatre, as the story explores the psyches of two men bent on trying to trick the other with rather extreme mind games. Filled with wit and humour, as well as insightful jibes, Shaffer’s script kept the audience’s attention very well.
Although the set was static, it was decorated superbly, with fine attention to detail as seen in the old grandfather clock, antique books, and a typewriter strewn about Wkye’s home. Andrew Mowatt, who played Andrew Wkyes, pulled double duty here acting as set designer as well.
Mowatt also shined as the leading character, delivering his dialogue effectively and adding a lot of physical movement to better express his character’s thoughts. Possessing the ability to add nuance and undulation to his pitch and tone, Mowatt delivered at times large chunks of dialogue and still managed to captivate the audience’s interest.
Chia struggled a tiny bit with some enunciation and pronunciation, and his faux-British accent wasn’t always consistent as his Singapore accent (and pronunciation) kept showing itself on some words. However, he pulled off playing two characters, as he was able to change his voice and pitch to such an extent that most of the audience didn’t know he was also Inspector Doppler who turned up later.
Under Lim’s direction, both actors took great advantage of the space and props, and it was this constant movement that helped entice the audience further as otherwise, such a wordy play as Sleuth, in a less competent director’s hands, would have felt mundane and prosaic. Lim managed to keep the action fresh and engaging for the audience.
It is most heartening and delightful that small theatre companies such as World-In-Theatre are able to put up such appealing plays as Sleuth, because without the flashiness of celebrities and big sets, good theatre is really about the story, the actors, and the direction. Sleuth scores top marks on all accounts.