Sicken and So Die by Simon Brett

Scribner (first), 1996

In his sixteenth outing, English actor Charles Paris lands the part of Sir Toby Belch in a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. All feels secure: the cast has been engaged for a four-month run, and the director, Gavin Scholes, wants a standard interpretation of the play. But when Scholes falls ill after consuming a possibly poisoned mushroom tartlet, not only is he replaced by a charismatic Romanian director, Alexandru Radulescu, whose revisionist ideas make Charles extremely uncomfortable, but someone starts getting rid of cast members. This comic mystery resembles Simon Shaw’s Philip Fletcher series, though it lacks Shaw’s savagery; Brett never travels as far out on a limb in Sicken and So Die as does Shaw in any of his works. However, he derives plenty of fun out of Charles’s almost invariably solitary position as the only cast member opposed to Radulescu’s ideas. Moreover, Brett’s descriptions of theater-craft are worth the price of the book: for example, Radulescu’s decision that the cast members who play Viola and Sebastian should take each other’s roles in rehearsal in order to “give … a new dimension” to their own parts initially causes much consternation, but ultimately enhances the production. (Helen M Francini)

Originally published in Issue # 146 – January/February 1999

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