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 Stephen Fletcher is an energetic Don, although his dialogue – all mockney rhyming slang and out-of-date references – is rather odd.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.
Bickering and banter: Jessie Wallace and Shane Richie as the Smileys. (Photo: Honeybunn Photography)
Leave a comment | tags: Benjamin Wilkin, Ian Talbot, Jessie Wallace, Michael Holt, Peter James, Shane Richie, Shaun McKenna, Simona Armstrong, Stephen Fletcher, The Perfect Murder | posted in Theatre Review
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.
Leave a comment | tags: Dawn Steele, Gray O'Brien, Ian Talbot, Mark Howlett, Martin Hodgson, Michael Holt, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Peter James, review, Robert Daws, Shaun McKenna, Simona Armstrong, The Perfect Murder, Thomas Howes | posted in Theatre Review