Preview: Plenty of life and mystery left in 53-year-old Sleuth

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Let the games begin.

Vertigo Theatre’s holiday offering is all about game playing, as mystery writer Andrew Wyke invites his wife’s lover, Milo Tindle, to his country home to discuss a plan to steal the well-insured jewelry of the woman they both supposedly love

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Written by Anthony Shaffer, Sleuth opened in London in 1970, instantly becoming a classic of the comic thriller genre. Over five years, it amassed 2,359 performances, and, when it moved to Broadway, it chalked up 1,222 performances and took home the 1971 Tony for best play.

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In 1972, Sleuth was turned into a film starring Laurence Olivier as Wyke and Michael Caine as Tindle. In 2007, 35 years later, Caine would play the older man to Jude Law’s young adulterer. Calgary’s own Stephen Hair pulled a Michael Caine having played Tindle opposite Grant Reddick’s Wyke at the Pleiades Theatre, the forerunner of Vertigo, and then some 30-plus years later, he played Wyke to Doug Curtis’s Tindle for Stage West. Theatre Calgary produced Sleuth in 1977, and Vertigo staged the thriller in 2004 with David LaReaney and Noel Johansen playing the duelling egos.

For Vertigo’s new version, Christopher Hunt plays Wyke to Braden Griffiths’ Tindle.

“I saw the Olivier film when it came out but I’ve never seen a stage version of it. What I love about this play is how clever the language is. It’s like Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde with clever people saying clever things, and Shaffer’s beautiful words are a gift” says Hunt, who admits to not being remotely interested in playing games as is his stage alter ego.

“My wife’s family are really into games so I get roped into playing card and board games occasionally, but never things like charades. For me, charades are like Halloween. They’re what I do for a living, so I don’t want to do them in my spare time. What I do share with Wyke is his playful, naughty side. All that part of Wyke in the play comes easy to me.”

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Actor Christopher Hunt poses at Vertigo Theatre on the set of Sleuth in Calgary on Wednesday, November 15, 2023. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

Something else Hunt says he shares with Wyke is the realization they are both part of the older generation.

“It’s easy and natural for an older man to feel he’s being pushed aside. Braden is the young flash. I see that in his Tindle, but I also see it in real life, so I understand why Wyke does the things he does in the play. There is a great deal of meat on the bones in this play. It may be a lot of fun, but it’s not shallow by any means. At its core, Sleuth is very dark.”

When he was cast in this play, Hunt knew Anthony Shaffer was the twin brother of Peter Shaffer who wrote such plays as Amadeus, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, and Equus. What Hunt learned through his research was “early in their careers, the brothers wrote three mystery novels, The Woman in the Wardrobe, How Doth the Little Crocodile and Withered Murder, under the pseudonym Peter Anthony, which probably explains why he made Andrew Wyke a mystery writer for Sleuth.”

Joining Hunt and Griffiths for Vertigo’s Sleuth, under the direction of Cherissa Richards, are Helen Knight, Tyrell Crews and Luigi Riscaldino. Andy Moro has designed the set which demands to be just as tricky, intricate and playful as the dialogue and characters in this play, which will undoubtedly have the audience contemplating what’s really going on in the minds of these rivals in love, class, money and age.

Sleuth begins its previews on Nov. 18, opens on Nov. 23 and runs in Vertigo’s theatre at the base of the Calgary Tower until Dec. 17.

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Originally posted 2023-11-17 14:13:53.