Review: Not Dead Enough at the Orchard Theatre

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.

Theatre round-up: 12 July 2015

Four very different theatre experiences this week, beginning with…

Dead Simple

A thriller based on the novel by crime writer Peter James, at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. It’s the story of a man buried alive on his stag night, only for all his friends to die in a horrible accident and leave him there. (Not good if you suffer from claustrophobia.) A very complex plot condensed into two hours means there are obviously going to be a few plot gaps, but it’s suitably chilling and good entertainment.

Dead Simple review


Acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella is a different take on a well-known story. There’s no fairy godmother, no pumpkins – not even a glass slipper. But even though it’s based on the Brothers Grimm version of the story, this ballet is still just as magical, romantic and funny as the fairy tale we all know and love. It was also my first go at reviewing ballet, which was a fun challenge 😉

Cinderella review for


Having heard some great things about Constellations, which began life at the Royal Court Theatre in 2012, I was excited by the opportunity to see it at Trafalgar Studios this week. A romantic drama with added physics, it makes you laugh and cry, while considering the multiple possible paths life can take. With stunning performances from Louise Brealey and Joe Armstrong, this is a must-see.

Constellations review for London Theatre Direct – link to follow

The Diver

A one-woman show from Helen Foster of Craft Theatre, this is not a ‘sit in the dark and say nothing’ theatre experience. Everyone in the audience is expected to play their part in the story – but luckily it’s so much fun that you really don’t mind getting involved. It’s a show about knowing what you want from life and having the courage to pursue it. And it’s completely bonkers, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Diver review for Carn’s Theatre Passion

This week's theatre

Next week’s theatre

Shakespeare’s R and J (Chapel Lane Theatre Company) at Tabard Theatre

The Gathered Leaves (Dead Letter Perfect) at Park Theatre