Behind the Curtain: Todd Boyce's Revelations on Rachel Kavanaugh's 'Sleuth' By Katie Vickers

In a delightful conversation with Todd Boyce, the celebrated actor - renowned for his contributions to both television and stage - offered a glimpse into his latest endeavour, Sleuth. Under the discerning direction of Rachel Kavanaugh, the play is currently undertaking its tour across the country, and will be coming to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on 23rd April.

After a brief fumble with technology on both ends of the phone, Boyce greeted me warmly; open and excited to speak of his work. Reflecting on the ongoing tour, he passionately recounted his experience working on the play alongside the cast and crew. "It's gone seamlessly," he remarked, his tone imbued with genuine fondness; "we couldn't have written the reviews better ourselves”. Of how he is enjoying the tour so far, he shared that "it's quite amazing to see places like Eastbourne or York and doing it with people you really like". Indeed, his affection for his fellow cast members was palpable as he referred to them as "a gang of lovely people", emphasising the camaraderie that fuels their performances.

On working with Neil McDermott, who previously starred in EastEnders, Boyce shared that he was a huge fan of the show prior to meeting him, and that "there is a great connection between us". Regarding his own role as Stephen Reid on Coronation Street, Boyce felt it was the "end of an era" having filmed his last episode in 2023 after 27 years. Breaking the record for the most episodes in a twelve-month period, with a whopping 193, he also admitted "it was great to go out with such a bang". When I asked whether the character of Reid had any similarities to his character Andrew Wyke in Sleuth, Boyce highlighted their shared traits of ambition and confidence. "It's been such an honour to play this part," he mused, likening the challenge to "learning the phone book" while emphasising the privilege of bringing Wyke to life.

In discussing the timeless appeal of Sleuth, Boyce's admiration for Anthony Shaffer's script shone through. "The language is divine," he enthused, highlighting the exhilarating challenge of bringing Shaffer's intricate dialogue to life. He shared that the cast had only a three-week-long rehearsal period, meaning he found he was frantically learning lines at all hours of the day. He recalls discussing with McDermott how, "when the words are at our fingertips, this will be a ball to play". He also touched upon the play's enduring relevance, noting how themes of greed and deception continue to resonate with audiences today, particularly in a technology-obsessed world, despite the play's origins in the 1970s.

"The language is divine...when the words are at our fingertips, this will be a ball to play."

Acknowledging the pivotal role of director Rachel Kavanaugh, Boyce spoke with reverence about her meticulous approach to storytelling. "She is extremely bright and incredibly experienced," he remarked, his admiration evident. McDermott had worked with Rachel prior to Sleuth on The Wind in the Willows in 2018, and Boyce recounted that, when discussing his experience with her, McDermott comically told him "I've often thought about directing, and then you work with someone like Rachel and you think 'maybe I shouldn't do that'". Boyce praised her ability to streamline the narrative, removing elements that may detract from the story's clarity while also commending her for addressing uncomfortable allusions to antisemitism present in the original script.

Turning to the technical aspects of the production, Boyce lauded Julie Godfrey's stunning set design, which brought the opulent world of Sleuth to life. However, he didn't shy away from mentioning the physical demands of the role, humorously noting the exhaustion that came with navigating the intricacies of the set, particularly the constant movement up and down the stairs. When queried about additional challenges associated with his role, he noted, "There is a lot of heavy lifting; the day is centred around the play". Emphasising the exhaustive nature of the performance, he admitted "It requires all the energy one can muster due to the amount of words you push out throughout the two-hour period". Chuckling, he added, "It requires a lot of coffee." I consequently inquired whether he manages to find time for other activities amidst his busy schedule. Boyce admitted that he enjoys "walking around the towns [they] visit", as well as gardening and spending time with his cats, and is looking forward to moving into his new house in the near future.

Despite the challenges, Boyce's passion for the stage was unwavering. "It's been such an honour to play this part," he mused, his words echoing with sincerity. As our conversation drew to a close, Boyce offered a piece of advice to prospective audience members: "Don't watch the film," he urged. "Leave yourself the delight of seeing it for the first time."

"Don't watch the film. Leave yourself the delight of seeing it for the first time."

In every word spoken, Boyce's warmth, insight, and passion for his craft illuminated the intricacies of Sleuth, offering a captivating glimpse into the world of theatre and the transformative power of storytelling.

This timeless classic will come to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford on 23rd April, and, before the end of its run on 27th, I highly suggest everyone gets a ticket to see its wonderful cast and crew in action.