Dead Simple, starring Tina Hobley and Jamie Lomas in the Peter James mystery at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford

What’s one’s deepest fear?

A packed audience at the very first stage showing of Dead Simple got a taste of it last night (Thurs, Jan 15) at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre.

It’s based on the best selling book by Peter James who has sold over 15 millions books.

It was gripping stuff from the moment the curtain rose. The cast and its director Ian Talbot had done their homework.

Only an occasional ripple of nervous laughter broke the silence of an engaged audience as aspects of the story’s black humour crept in.

Starring roles go to Tina Hobley who returns to the boards after 12 years as ward sister in the TV series Holby City. She plays Ashley Harper about to wed Michael Harrison (Jamie Lomas who starred in EastEnders).

Love is in the air – before things go horribly wrong on Michael’s stag night.

It’s always difficult adapting a top seller story onto stage but the cast are excellent in delivering the twists and turns of a plot that kept everyone on the edge of their seats.

Michael seems to have everything, having made millions as a property tycoon, but his stag night results in him being buried alive and staring death in the face.

As time runs out, the terror grows with the cast ably getting to grips with Peter James’s novel.

Fear, says Peter, is very much about being alone in the world, unable to communicate with a soul, friendless and unloved.

“In coming to write Dead Simple I was able to combine this with another very deep and seemingly universal fear – that of being buried alive,” he said.

Clever use of the stage sets enabled the audience to see most of the different story scenes without recourse to time-consuming stage changes, and this kept events unfolding at a thrilling pace.

A special mention should go to supporting actor Josh Brown, who plays Davey Wheeler.

His role as a young man with learning difficulties – who holds the key to Michael’s whereabouts – was convincing and delivered in a lovable way.

Directed by Oliver Award winner Ian Talbot, the play runs at the Orchard in Dartford until Saturday, January 17 before going on regional tour.

If you ever had a fear of being utterly alone then try experiencing with this play – it’s Dead Simple.

by Nick Lillitos