JUST when you think it is safe to leave your seat and head for the cloakroom, another twist in the plot nails you to your seated position.

Gerald Moon's Deadly Manoeuvres, which premiered at Basingstoke's Haymarket Theatre last Friday, is a twisting, turning maze of a play which almost becomes confusing as it nears its conclusion.

It all seems reasonably simple in the beginning - set against the backdrop of the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Celestia Beaumont, wife of internationally renowned architect Sir Clifford Beaumont, is hoping to become a senior partner in the family business.

That way, she will achieve all she wants, all she believes she should have, including wealth and social status.

Meanwhile, her young and ambitious daughter Barbara-Jane is also looking to move up in the world as she follows in her beloved father's footsteps in the architectural world.

On the day in question, she is bringing her latest beau, handsome and charismatic Daniel Brackenbury, to meet her parents - and the family butler George (played by Moon himself).

As one would expect from the playwright who came up with the highly acclaimed Corpse in 1984, nothing is quite what it seems and, when things start to go wrong for Celestia, it soon becomes clear that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Perhaps because everything seems fairly straight-forward and, despite some wonderfully comical dialogue between Celestia and her butler, the first half struggles to pick up the pace.

But when the actors take to the stage in the second half, it is almost as though they have stepped up a gear - the dialogue is snappier and both lines and physical presence are used to their full comic potential.

This is also where things start to get complicated and the final scene contains so many twists that you begin to wonder whether Deadly Manoeuvres actually has an ending.

Norma West takes on the main part of Celestia and wins hands down, while Gerald Moon is also highly entertaining as George the butler. Mention must also be made of the stunning set and superb lighting work.

Deadly Manoeuvres is a lot of fun and fans of Corpse will enjoy it immensely - just don't be too hasty in getting up from your seat.

Andy Bothwell.

The Herald Arts pages are where you'll find the best reviews of a wide range of local entertainment.