AWARD-WINNING writer and director Johnny McKnight has directed a number of leading companies including Scottish Opera, Tron Theatre, Macrobert, Perth Theatre. This month he makes his directorial debut at Dundee Rep with a production of Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, the longest running thriller on Broadway.

AS a kid I was fascinated by mysteries. It started with the Famous Five and Secret Seven and then progressed into Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys and, ultimately, on to devouring most Agatha Christie novels before the age of 14.

The material got darker as I got older – it moved from thriller to horror (Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th) and I became fascinated with “the other side”.

I started going to spiritualist churches, hoping to get a message from the dead. I did, from my auntie’s springer spaniel. No joke, he was seemingly very happy.

Aged 20, I thought I’d found the ultimate thriller – the movie Scream. It was funny, it was thrilling, it was a mystery and, most of all, it knew its own genre, nodding and winking throughout the movie at itself. It riffed off our expectations and played with its audience. I loved that. And that was a first. Or so I thought.

Andrew Panton, the artistic director of Dundee Rep, drew my attention to Deathtrap, saying he felt there was something in it that I’d like.

He couldn’t have been more right. It has all the same elements as Scream except – and here’s the thing – it was written way before that post-modern thriller. Almost 30 years before it. It takes all those mysteries I loved growing up, all those Hitchcock movies, those arch and villainous film noirs, puts them in a blender, and serves it up with ice-cold humour. And there’s a psychic in it too! How could I possibly resist?

I’ve worked consistently since graduating nearly 18 years ago (which makes me 28, I was a child prodigy!). I’ve made work for, or toured to, or performed in, pretty much every theatre in Scotland, except one – Dundee Rep. I’ve watched countless shows there, but never worked or taken work to this venue. It’s always been that boy that you fancied at the other side of the hall at the school disco, but you didn’t have the courage to ask to dance.

There’s a series of firsts working on this show: first time I’ve worked with any of the brilliant actors in the production; first time I’ve ever worked with a fight director; with Lizzie Powell (renowned lighting designer); first time I’ve had the opportunity to work on a murder mystery – to draw upon all those things that I was absorbing growing up. But, most importantly, it’s my first time at Dundee, my first dance, which is exciting, and terrifying, and hilarious and thrilling – handy, because that’s exactly everything Deathtrap is.

Feb 22 to Mar 10, previews on Feb 20 and 21, Dundee Rep, various times, £12 to £25, concs available. Tel: 01382 223530.