Millionaire mystery writer Andrew Wyke is a consummate toff.
Leading a cushy life in a comfortable old mansion in Wiltshire, he has the luxury of indulging in eccentricity. He dons the costumes of his characters while he writes.
“He’s quite full of himself,” says Reg Parks, who transforms into an upper class snob for Theatre In The Country’s production of Sleuth.
“He thinks he’s all that and a bag of chips.”
This 1970 mystery by Anthony Shaffer is a classic British thriller with lots of shocking twists to keep the audience guessing.
Wyke, a fading mystery writer of some renown, invites his wife’s new lover Milo Tindle to his country mansion.
Everything seems very civil until Wyke realizes that Tindle is not wealthy enough to keep his spend-thrift wife in the luxurious style to which she has become accustomed. This is a problem because Wyke wants ‘to lose the dear girl for life, not just a two week “Tindle Tour economy class.” The two men launch a plan for Tindle to steal Wyke jewels and defraud the insurance company – all nicely clear and simple – or is it? A ladder, a clown suit and a stick of TNT later, and soon both men are embroiled in game which may have deadly consequences.
Parks, artistic director for Theatre in The Country, first saw Sleuth when he was 16.
“I was fascinated by all the twists and turns and reversals in the story. It is great fun, lots of laughs, and makes for a perfect night of entertainment on a cool November evening,” he says.
“I always thought I would end up playing the younger role but that opportunity never came along.”
Parks does 12 different accents during the play as he cycles through the mystery writer’s characters.
“In terms of an acting challenge there’s no mercy in it. From the opening scene, you’re on,” he adds.
Luckily, accents have always come easily to Parks.
“I used to goof around as a kid with lots of different ones,” he explains.
A Theatre Arts teacher at Maple Ridge Christian School, Parks shares the stage with one other actor – Mark Lee, a radiologist from Abbotsford.
Parks and Lee have acted together off and on for almost 20 years and their chemistry is fun and high-energy. Other key roles are played by local actors who add great flavour to this funny, spin-tingling piece that features a superb set designed by John B. Webster. The show is directed by Francis Boyle, who played Henry Higgins in Theatre in the Country’s recent production of My Fair Lady.
There are some serious themes in the midst of all the mystery.
Like many plays of that era, it’s an exposition of the final crumbling of the British class system.
“It plays on all of that,” says Parks.
Sleuth also makes the audience consider the how foreigners were treated at the time – with Milo, being an Italian who is part Jewish.
Sleuth is regarded as one of the greatest stage thrillers, winning the Tony Award for Best Play and inspiring two film versions.
Sleuth runs every weekend until Nov. 30 at Theatre in The Country , 9975 272 Street in Maple Ridge. There are full dinner tickets with a delicious roast beef buffet including full dessert. There are also 3 Saturday matinees with a pasta bar luncheon. You can also forgo the meals at any of the shows and get theatre only tickets for any performance. Sunday afternoons at 4 pm no meal is served and all tickets are Theatre Only. For further information, prices and times please visit the website at www.theatreinthecountry.com or call 604-259-9737.