A play set on the streets on London featuring just one actor on a small stage with a minimum of props requires something of a leap of faith in the audience. So it’s testament to Douglas Post’s super script and Simon Slater’s epic, virtuoso performance that this noir thriller is a thoroughly gripping experience.

In the grey and depressing capital of the 1950s, detective-turned-photographer Derek Eveleigh lives a hand to mouth existence in his rundown Pimlico flat. Haunted and traumatised by the images of gruesome crime scenes, Derek has spent too many years looking at life through the bottom of a glass and now lurches from one lost afternoon to another.

A change of fortune comes when a mystery correspondent engages Derek to secretly photograph a woman in return for handsome cash payments. It’s a no-questions-asked arrangement that suits Derek perfectly, but when things take a tragic turn, our antihero is plunged into the murky world of London after dark, sleezy nightclubs and violence.

It’s imaginatively and cleverly directed by Patrick Sandford, who creates the mood of menace that lurks around every corner with the minimum of gimmickry. Screen projections are thankfully kept to a minimum and are all the more effective for it — unlike many bigger budget shows these days that make a theatre visit more like watching a dvd at times.

But it’s Simon Slater’s wonderful performance as Derek (and other sundry characters) that makes this play succeed so well. He holds the audience enthralled for close to two hours with hardly a moment when things flag or feel at all padded. He plays the banjo and the saxophone, sings and does magic tricks in addition to weaving a totally believable scenario as the beleaguered photographer gets further and further out of his depth.

Bloodshot is perfectly suited to the intimate surroundings of the St James Theatre Studio — being seated at tables certainly added to the nightclub scenes and I felt a need to be a little more sharp suited than I was — but it would be a shame if this super little play didn’t find a home in a slightly larger venue.

Reviewed by Tony Peters

By Douglas Post
Directed by Patrick Sandford
Starring Simon Slater as Derek Eveleigh