by Peter James adapted by Shaun McKenna.

Tour to 26 April 2014.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 March at Belgrade Theatre Coventry.

A perfect murder before a large audience.
A perfect murder is one where no-one knows a killing’s been made. It’s not easy, what with DNA, CCTV and other dangerous acronyms about. Even experienced crime-writer Peter James needs to do it in two parts.

His story overall resembles French director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1955 film Les Diaboliques, though James and the modern age produce nothing so churningly fearful as the peaceable mid-1950s. A freezer (nothing like so viscerally horrific as the use of the one in Shallow Grave) is hardly a substitute for the dank swimming-pool of Clouzot’s film, the dredging of which leads to the track-change of plot.

It’s actually the freezer’s use that proves the weak point in James’ plotting here. Without plot-spoiler details, its impact on the murder might just be biologically sound, but it’s not convincing.

That’s the only point where credulity snaps. Otherwise, all proceeds on the straight and narrow, except where a sharp corner is called for. And so long as we don’t expect a plot-driven genre to deliver depth of character, and can run with the cliché of the attractive young woman falling for the man in late middle age, all goes on merrily enough.

Some nicely tense moments tighten the nerves midway, though such atmospherics are a little at odds with the police procedural element. James shows his regular detective at the start of his career. And lets him be misled, the audience seeing how it happens.

That’s unusual enough to leave you expecting a long arm of the law will come out at the curtain call with a sudden “You’re nicked.” But no, it seems they’re not going to be, in an ending which varies from the brief novel behind the drama.

Michael Holt’s design sets bedrooms at an angle over the living-room, which reflects the private lives of the characters. Ian Talbot directs efficiently and the actors are all tactful in their characterisation – perhaps especially Maeve Malley-Ryan as a frustrated wife, substituting for Claire Goose, the announcement of whose absence drew the biggest gasp of surprise (or disappointment) of the evening.

The theatre (or stalls at least) were full.

Victor Smiley: Les Dennis.
Joan Smiley: Claire Goose.
Don Kirk: Gray O’Brien.
Detective Constable Roy Grace: Steven Miller.
Kamila Walcak: Simona Armstrong.

Director: Ian Talbot.
Designer: Michael Holt.
Lighting: Mark Howett.
Lighting: Mark Howett.
Sound: Martin Hodgson.
Composer: Laura Tisdall.

3-7 March 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu 2.30pmDerby Theatre 01332 593939
10-15 March 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Wycombe Swan High Wycombe 01494 512000
18-22 March 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm King’s Theatre Glasgow 0844 871 7648
24-29 March 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Cambridge Arts Theatre 01223 503333
31 March-5 April 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Milton Keynes Theatre 0844 871 7652
8-12 April 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm New Victoria Theatre Woking 0844 871 7645
15-19 April 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Manchester Opera House 0844 871 3018
22-26 April 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu, Sat 2.30pm Richmond Theatre 0844 871 7651

Online booking for all venues:

2014-03-07 18:33:25

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