Sleuth (play)

Sleuth is a 1970 play written by Anthony Shaffer. The Broadway production received the Tony Award for Best Play, and Anthony Quayle and Keith Baxter received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. The play was adapted for feature films in 1972, 2007 and 2014.

First edition 1970
Written byAnthony Shaffer
Date premieredNovember 12, 1970 (1970-11-12)
Place premieredMusic Box Theatre, New York City
Original languageEnglish
GenreMystery, thriller
SettingA manor house in Wiltshire, England, on a summer evening

Plot summary

The play is set in the Wiltshire manor house of Andrew Wyke, an immensely successful mystery writer. Wyke's home reflects his obsession with the inventions and deceptions of fiction and his fascination with games and game-playing. He lures his wife's lover Milo Tindle to the house and convinces him to stage a robbery of her jewelry, a proposal that sets off a chain of events that leaves the audience trying to decipher where Wyke's imagination ends and reality begins.

Shaffer said the play was partially inspired by one of his friends, composer Stephen Sondheim, whose intense interest in game-playing is mirrored by the character of Wyke, and by John Dickson Carr.


Directed by Clifford Williams, Sleuth opened on 12 January 1970 at the Royal Theatre in Brighton, England.

The play eventually transferred to the United States and opened on Broadway on November 12, 1970, at the Music Box Theatre, where it ran for 1,222 performances. Anthony Quayle and Keith Baxter starred as Andrew Wyke and Milo Tindle, with other parts listed as played by Stanley Wright, Sydney Maycock and Liam McNulty.

When Quayle left the production in 1972, he was succeeded by Paul Rogers, George Rose and Patrick Macnee. Baxter was succeeded by Brian Murray then Donal Donnelly, Jordan Christopher and Curt Dawson.[1]


Sleuth received the 1971 Tony Award for Best Play, and received nominations for Best Direction of a Play (Clifford Williams) and Best Lighting Design (William Ritman). Anthony Quayle and Keith Baxter received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. Sleuth also received the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Play.

Film adaptations

In 1972, Shaffer adapted his play for film, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. Another film adaptation was released in 2007 with a screenplay by Harold Pinter. The 2007 film was directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Michael Caine and Jude Law as Milo Tindle, originally played by Caine in the 1972 version.

The play was also the basis for the film Tamanna. Whilst some of the interactions between the two men are similar, the film has roles for not just Wyke's wife, but also his second, younger wife, the Tindle character's object of desire, and the outcome for the characters is darker. The milieu is Pakistan's film industry, Lollywood in its dying days, and is used an allegory of wider issues. The dialogue, in Urdu, and the scenario are adapted in numerous ways for both Pakistani and Islamic culture.


  1. "Sleuth". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2017-03-21.
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