THE PERFECT MURDER
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wednesday 30th March, 2016
This production gets a new lease of life in a new tour starring EastEnders double act, Kat and Alfie Moon – Jessie Wallace and Shane Richie. They certainly bring in the crowds.
Adapted by Shaun McKenna from the Peter James novel, this is a comedy thriller about sarcastic sod Victor Smiley (even his name is sarcastic) plotting to get rid of his Mrs and run off with his prostitute girlfriend and a hefty haul of insurance money. Victor is an aficionado of televised murder mysteries and thinks he’s got it taped. What he doesn’t know is that his trouble and strife has plots of her own, teaming up with her bit on the side, Don… Meanwhile, fresh out of the box Detective Constable Roy Grace smells a rat…
Richie and Wallace undoubtedly have chemistry. Away from Walford, to somewhere more middle class near Brighton, the accents have softened but their embittered, barbed dialogue sparks between them – they clearly enjoy working with each other. At first, we feel sympathy for poor neglected Joan (Wallace, bringing brittle feistiness and steely vulnerability to the role) until we learn what she’s up to too. Richie’s characterisation gives us a detestable man – one we enjoy disliking. The pair play their scenes together like virtuoso duets. Wallace’s hysteria is especially hilarious while Richie’s ruthlessness becomes rather repellent.
Simona Armstrong is also great fun as Kamila, the prostitute with psychic flashes, while Benjamin Wilkin’s detective is the innocent of the bunch, the straight man amid these heightened characters. Stephen Fletcher is an energetic Don, although his dialogue – all mockney rhyming slang and out-of-date references – is rather odd.
The plot works through its machinations, giving us moments of tension and dramatic irony along with moments of shock and even spookiness. Throughout runs a rich vein of rather dark humour – Director Ian Talbot brings the humour to the fore and there are some hilarious moments of physical comedy. Michael Holt’s split set works well to keep the action flowing, cutting from one place to another without the delay of transitions, so that the pace and tension are maintained. Mark Howett’s lighting design helps to crank up that tension.
It’s a rather straightforward, theatrically conventional piece but it works extremely well to provide an evening of cracking, satisfying entertainment. A definite crowd-pleaser.