Guest review by Mandy Southgate
Prolific author Peter James requires no introduction to the stage. Adaptations of his books The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple were sell-out successes in the West End and toured around the UK. Not Dead Enough is the latest of his books to become a play and we are promised an evening of thrilling suspense and mystery.
Three murders. One suspect. No proof.
Detective Superintendent Roy Grace returns with a crime that will test him to the limits. On the night his wife is murdered, Brian Bishop claims to be sixty miles away, asleep in his bed. No matter how much DS Grace likes him for the crime, he simply can’t pin it on Bishop. Meanwhile, DS Grace is still dealing with the disappearance of his own wife. Could the two cases be related?
Directed by Olivier Award-winner Ian Talbot and starring Shane Richie as DS Roy Grace, Not Dead Enough begins its national tour at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford before moving to Milton Keynes and Woking.
Not Dead Enough is a lot of fun. It is quick-paced, full of suspense and the audience has to pay careful attention in order to sort through the plethora of clues and red herrings. If it is any indication, by the final minutes of the first half, I was balancing precariously on the edge of my seat, eyes fixed firmly on the stage. Just remember that you can’t always believe what your own eyes are telling you and sometimes it is a case of not looking closely enough.
Despite the serious subject matter, Not Dead Enough is very funny, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. Then again, with the harrowing crimes being committed on stage, it may just be that the audience’s mirth was more nervous laughter than anything else.
Not Dead Enough is small, with just nine people (ten if you include a dead body). Shane Richie is joined on stage by Michael Quartey as DS Glenn Branson. Where DS Grace is focused and often desperate, DS Branson is irreverent and daring. Laura Whitmore plays Cleo Morey, the chief mortician and love interest to DS Grace.
Stephen Billington, best known for playing the dastardly Greg Kelly in Coronation Street, plays Brian Bishop. It is only after the big reveal at the end of the play that you realise just how good his performance was and how he had been giving the audience very subtle clues as to the real story the whole time.
One of the most interesting aspects of any stage production is the set design and use of space. The stage design for Not Dead Enough was simple and static, dividing the stage into the mortuary, office, interview room and street. This clever design allowed the story to switch seamlessly between scenes, allowing a pace and dynamic more often seen in television productions than stage. It was very impressive.
I enjoyed Not Dead Enough and look forward to future plays in the Peter James DS Roy Grace franchise.
Not Dead Enough is running at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford until Saturday 28 January 2017. Visit Peter James’s website for details on future dates.