REVIEW: Peter James’ Dead Simple at the Orchard Theatre Dartford

Plot twists and turns abound in this darkly dramatic play

Dartford’s Orchard Theatre has long enjoyed a solid reputation for its varied and consistently strong programming and this reputation is justified as the current production – Dead Simple – shows.

The Orchard hosts the world premiere of the play, which is an adaptation of Peter James’ million-selling book of the same name. A national tour is to follow.

A host of familiar faces take to the stage, including Tina Hobley, Jamie Lomas and Gray O’Brien. The results of Ian Talbot’s direction can be seen in every performance – they are uniformly excellent. The cast gel superbly, and they must all be commended. The emotional spectrum of the play covers dark drama to moments of levity, all of which blend seamlessly.

Special mention should go to Josh Brown playing Davey Wheeler – a complex role that he pulls off with aplomb. Also worthy of note is Jamie Lomas, (Michael Harrison) whose move from the small screen to the stage is triumphant. It is a challenging role that sees his physicality limited, and he should be congratulated for the nuances he imbues into his performance. Tina Hobley (Ashley Harper) brings superb energy – her stage presence is very strong.

The action, which spans several locations, is very cleverly staged, with Michael Taylor’s innovative design fully using every inch of the stage.

The piece is packed with twists and turns, and it’s hard to detail much storyline without giving anything away. Suffice to say it’s a tightly plotted and very dark drama that plays on one of the psyche’s deeper fears. The action starts with a stag night prank that goes horribly wrong, leaving Michael buried alive.

As he lies trapped in darkness, a search goes on around him. But nothing is how it originally seemed, as a complex narrative unweaves itself.

Dead Simple runs at the Orchard Theatre until January 17. For more information or tickets visit