The Creeper, Playhouse, London

When the hired help goes on the rampage...
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The Independent Culture

It's scary the way some shows worm their way into the West End, making out they're going to be decent before proving quite breathtakingly rotten. The Creeper ought to be a forgotten gem, right? Penned in 1965 by Pauline Macaulay, it's a domestic thriller laced with homosexual and class tensions, potentially comparable to Pinter's The Servant and here revived by Bill Bryden with a sterling cast.

Ian Richardson's Edward initially seems the sinister predator. A wealthy old eccentric who likes playing games, he has placed an ad seeking a young male home help who'll be lavishly cosseted. But everything will be forfeited if the contract is terminated. Alan Cox's flouncing, dangerously bitter Michel, a Soho boho, is being jettisoned even as the new boy arrives - Oliver Dimsdale's Maurice whose good-as-gold meekness could be a front.

In fact Maurice's somnambulant habit of psychotically throttling balloons with neckties is a bit of a give-away. No one could accuse Macaulay of being crafty at plotting. Murder-mysteries don't come much creakier than The Creeper. It's like some dusty revenant from regional rep, and the climactic slaughter is fantastically silly, with the killer prowling round in a Red Indian fancy-dress outfit.

The acting, by contrast, is pretty impeccable even if Michel verges on a camp, bitchy caricature. Dimsdale deserves more work, Harry Towb is endearing as the doddery butler, and Richardson has tenderness as well as dry humour. But they must just be in this for the money, right?

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