Simply a wonderful tease

First published Tuesday 10 February 2015

by Alan Wallcroft

REVIEW: Dead Simple – at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Monday, February 9 to Saturday, February 14, 2015.

HEADING out into the cold night air through the theatre’s exits one particular comment – overhead from a lady -summed up how many of the audience must have felt as she remarked: “Well, there were more twists and turns to that than driving down a Devon country lane.”

She was absolutely right and it was easy to understand how she felt as this finely crafted stage adaptation of Peter James’ murder-mystery novel, or rather murders, teases and torments with a glimpse here and there over the hedgerows and through five-barred gates as to who could be the eventual guilty party.

While our way out was easier to find, one of the main characters looking for a way out of his particular ‘predicament’ faced a similarly daunting task as the audience did in suspecting the prime candidate.

It appears quite straight forward half-way in, but that’s a mere check-point in this Roy Grace detective novel before dramatic diversions ratchet up the levels of tension.

It’s an intricate plot based on the simple premise of the fear of being alone and unable to communicate, and picking out any clues or picking up pointers as to where it will all lead called for levels of concentration which simply added to the overall enjoyment.

Tina Hobley – among a number of familiar faces – was in great form as the scheming and glamorous Ashley Harper, which in turn drew solid support from Rik Makarem’s equally devious Mark Warren, while Jamie Lomas’ Michael Harrison splendidly echoed the fear and terror when he struggled to ensure a ‘lid’ wasn’t kept on developments.

The police ‘double act’ of Gray O’Brien’s Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and Marc Small, as his trusty ally Detective Sergeant Branson, gels extremely well with the latter amusingly determined to keep his boss out of a pickle.

Josh Brown also merits a mention for pulling off the tricky role of Davey Wheeler, who was one spanner short of a full tool kit when it came to assisting his father’s vehicle recovery business.

There are times when it is dark, dramatic and downright worrying with very tense moments – not to mention those twists and turns, and you can’t really afford to lower your attention levels. Without wishing to give anything away – if your worst nightmare is being buried alive then stand by to have your nerves shredded.

Dead? Plenty of it. Simple? Oh no it isn’t? Put together it’s an excellent night at the theatre and especially so if you are a crime-thriller/whodunit fan as Ian Talbot’s director skills fully extort all the emotions.