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Toyer

Gardner McKay
Arts Theatre
(2009)

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Seeing Dust in New York last month brought home the fact that in London at least, thrillers have gone out of fashion. An extremely long 85 minutes watching Toyer, a stage adaptation of a reputedly best-selling 500 page novel (although at the moment, it is only a whisker away from dropping out of the top 350,000 books on the UK Amazon site), makes one extremely grateful that they are so few and far between.

The key to a good thriller is uncertainty and breathless expectation. Therefore, when the first sight of Al Weaver's psychotic Peter makes the decision as to whether he is a talented actor playing a serial killer or a serial killer playing a serial killer a no-brainer, you might as well go home.

Indeed, no-braining is what our semi-autistic anti-hero turns out to specialise in. The toyer's victims are turned into perpetual vegetables with a few clever snips of a sharp knife, though where on earth he got the medical training is never explained.

The latest in line for the treatment is Maude, a sexy psychiatrist played by stage and screen star Alice Krige. She must be the dumbest doctor in Hollywood, as with the knowledge that there is a mass murderer in town, she happily invites a patently unstable man into her super-stylish home.

As if that is not bad enough, the angst-ridden specialist, who has dealt with many of the victims, keeps making bad decisions. She repeatedly allows herself to be freaked out by a man who practically scares her to death pretending to be the murderer, unless, that is, the terrifying fellow really is what he purports to be.

At a pivotal moment in the play, Maude has the chance to lock and bolt the door with the friendly nutter outside but no. Instead, this lonely woman invites him back for one of the hottest sex scenes that the London stage can have seen in recent years.

From there on, former actor turned novelist and playwright, Gardner McKay does his best to keep us on tenterhooks but your reviewer, at least, fails be able to suspend the disbelief at any point.

Alice Krige does her best to breathe life into Maude, while her colleague looks as confused by his character as are the audience.

One suspects that the novel, which contains many more characters and presumably better plotting, would be a better bet than this weak stage adaptation. However, an evening at the Arts Theatre does not encourage viewers to invest further time in discovering whether that is really the case.

Visit our sponsor 1st 4 London Theatre to book tickets for Toyer

Reviewer: Philip Fisher