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The Perfect Murder stage production: British Theatre Guide

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Review by Sheila Connor.

International best-selling crime thriller novelist Peter James has sold over fifteen million books of his Roy Grace series, but this is the first one to have been adapted for the stage, and, having now seen the play I’m very much hoping that others will follow.

The story is of Victor and Joan and a marriage in crisis, a love affair which has long ago lost its spark. Each now hates the other to the extent that Victor, having taken to visiting a Brighton brothel, has fallen for the young prostitute Kamila (Simona Armstrong) and plans to run away with her.

First he will do away with his wife and collect the insurance on her life, an insurance which he took out several years ago. This is a man who thinks ahead and plans well. The method he has chosen to despatch her is extremely ingenious and he is sure to get away with the crime, but Claire Goose’s Joan, who has taken a young hunky lover, has plans of her own and she needs to get rid of Victor.

Which one will succeed and will either get away with the crime? To add to mystery and confusion, Kamila is psychic and has been known to discover the whereabouts of murder victims. She is helping Detective Constable Roy Grace (Steven Miller) with his enquiries.

This question keeps the audience on tenterhooks and totally involved the whole time. I defy anyone to work out what the outcome will be.

Designer Michael Holt has cleverly, and with different levels, managed to provide four separate rooms on stage. We begin with Victor and Kamila in her brothel room before moving on to the house of the married couple and the scene of their constant bickering with Mark Howett’s lighting spotlighting the action.

Any murder mystery has to have suitably creepy music and composer Laura Tisdall hits all the right notes (and definitely in the right order), even to the incongruous “There may be trouble ahead” refrain which upsets a nervous Joan when she has disposed of her husband’s body.

Talking of the body, Les Dennis as Victor certainly suffers for his art here, being swathed in plastic bags over every part of his body (including head), all wrapped tightly around with duct tape, before being dumped in the freezer. I hope he makes sure he keeps on good terms with his fellow actors—I was so worried he would suffocate.

No, I haven’t totally given away the plot which, with the script, is extremely intricate and very clever. Brilliant director Ian Talbot keeps the pace, the comedy, and the suspense at a high level. Nobody sleeps in this show with surprises at every turn. It’s a night for everyone, with horror, intrigue, mystery and yet plenty of comedy included, all superbly performed and great fun.

James has commented, “I dreamed of one day having something I wrote appear on the stage, and this wonderful, extremely funny and in parts very scary adaptation is truly a dream come true. I do not think we could have a more perfect, murderously wonderful cast”.

I can’t argue with that. It’s terrific!.