BWW Reviews: THE PERFECT MURDER, Belgrade Theatre, February 24 2014

by Jenny Antill

Adapted from crime thriller novelist Peter James’ incredibly successful book, The Perfect Murder has already taken over £1 million at the box office. Best known for his Roy Grace series which has sold over 15 million copies, this is the first time that his work has been produced for the stage.

In the grand scheme of things, there are not that many crime thrillers around and with such a high profile cast; it is incredibly enticing from the get-go. The story centres around married couple Victor and Joan Smiley, whose relationship has evidently gone stale and both wish to kill their other half…as you do! The first act takes a little while to find its rhythm but once it does, there is no stopping the pace. It’s a very witty script with a dark undertone throughout. There is never any question that a murder is going to be committed but the circumstances surrounding the crime is the intriguing part. The show twists and turns in the second half so when you think you have the plot sussed, you soon realise you don’t at all.

The Perfect Murder has been adapted for stage by Shaun McKenna who has done a great job. The text is very conversational and the actors deliver the lines in a very believable way. Ian Talbot’s direction is slick and makes use of Michael Holt’s multi-level design effectively. Also aiding the locality is Mark Howett’s satisfactory, fit for purpose lighting. The sound design was very impressively accomplished by Martin Hodgson – as a theatre practitioner myself, it is quite rare to hear such excellent sound on a play whereby there are no microphones or live band to mix. It was very exposed and superbly executed. Although underused, it was also a thrill to hear some original music by Laura Tisdall who was recently brought to our attention via ‘The In-Between’.

With only a five-strong cast, each character is key within the story. Les Dennis plays husband Victor competently although doesn’t fully find his feet until his sinister side comes out in the second half. Claire Goose is an excellent Joan; being one of my personal favourite TV actresses, she did not disappoint on a live stage. Joan’s lover, Don, is performed by the delicious Gray O’Brien with a very endearing ‘Mockney’ accent and brilliant comic timing alongside Goose. Detective Constable Roy Grace is played very straight and uncomplicated by Steven Miller – there is not a lot to play around with this character unlike the others but is portrayed well. Finally Simona Armstrong has the role of sex worker Kamila and as the least well-known actor, she holds up fantastically amongst the more experienced performers.

The Perfect Murder is a thoroughly entertaining night out and I would highly recommend it. Catch the production at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry before it finishes on Saturday 1st March.