THE PERFECT MURDER
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Monday 10th November, 2014
All the love has gone from the marriage of Victor and Joan Smiley. She is having an affair with a bit of rough and he is a regular client to a Polish prostitute who happens to be psychic (she can see you coming). Victor is plotting to murder his wife and run off with Kamila, who in the mean time is using her psychometric abilities to help the police find murder victims. Add in a likeable but inexperienced young detective inspector and the stage is set for a lively evening of laughter, thrills and suspense.
Shaun McKenna’s adaptation of Peter James’s novel is very funny – the bickering between the central couple is acerbic and sometimes cruel – and it’s played to the hilt by Robert Daws and Dawn Steele, who both drip with bitter sarcasm. Gray O’Brien is energetic as Joan’s bit of stuff, while Simona Armstrong’s Kamila pulls off some potentially awkward scenes of psychic flashes. Thomas Howes teases out the tension as D.C. Grace. It’s not so much a whodunit but a will-they-get-away-with-it, and there are shocks and twists along the way.
Michael Holt’s split level set gives us four rooms all at once so the action can keep flowing without any pesky scene changes, (keeping a chest freezer centre stage…) Mark Howett’s lighting and Martin Hodgson’s sound enhance the suspense and bring a touch of the supernatural to the proceedings. Director Ian Talbot places emphasis on the fun – we enjoy the performers even if we find the characters deplorable.
With its many references to popular crime fiction, the play is a refreshing change from the country house, drawing room, murder mysteries that usually do the rounds. Not only is there a discussion of which Sherlock Holmes has the best bum, there is a knowingness that informs the plot: the characters have all ‘seen it on the telly’ and so has the audience, but The Perfect Murder is fresh and engaging. You are guaranteed a good night out with this entertaining black comedy chiller.