THE PERFECT MURDER – Touring

In Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland, Touring by Thom DibdinLeave a Comment

★★★
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh – until 5 March 2016
Then touring
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson

There is considerable entertainment in Peter James’ The Perfect Murder, an unremarkable, grimly humorous murder mystery elevated by the efforts of Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace.

Best known for their portrayals of Alfie and Kat Moon in EastEnders, here they play Brighton-based IT manager Victor Smiley and his younger wife Joan, a jaded married couple who both entertain ideas of removing their spouse. Any notions that this is purely stunt casting, or that the duo will be trading on their reputations, are soon squashed by performances of skill and comic nous.

The play is adapted from a short novella by the bestselling James, here rejigged to include a younger version of his regular detective Roy Grace, confusingly portrayed as a younger tyro DC despite the obviously present-day setting.

It must be admitted, however, that, despite the odd reference that clearly signals contemporaneity, this seems to inhabit one of those dated, yet non-specific, periods of time that murder mysteries often make use of. In this case, it is a time when massive wall-mounted flatscreen TVs and huge chest freezers were equally sought-after consumer goods – or equally important plot devices at any rate.

The story’s origins in a novella can be seen in the decidedly odd structure of Shaun McKenna’s adaptation. Much of the first half is taken up by protracted marital bickering between Victor and Joan, while the second act is more devoted to supernatural tinges and macabre farce. You do not have to strain very hard to see the twists coming, and there are plot points that do not bear too close an examination.

Nevertheless, the construction is sturdy enough, and Ian Talbot’s direction ensures a taut and pacy production. This is aided by Michael Holt’s large, split-level set featuring all of the necessary playing areas built on top of each other; such a device often detracts from the action but it works very well here.

Jessie Wallace and Shane Richie. Photo: Honeybunn Photography

There is no doubt, however, that the production’s strength is the central duo of Richie and Wallace.

They spark off each other to a pleasing degree; not surprisingly, they are entirely familiar with each other’s style and presence, but it never settles into comfort. Instead, there is considerable energy to the way they sustain a sequence of weak jokes in that overlong first half. It is reminiscent of a low-rent Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – surely an idea if the duo want to find another high-profile vehicle.

When they are not on stage together, there is a definite lull in proceedings – although Wallace in particular manages to milk any solo possibility for dark humour with excellent timing without ever quite going too far, and manages the difficult feat of making Joan simultaneously monstrous and sympathetic.

The other performances are more than adequate – Stephen Fletcher’s mockney cabbie Don is solid, while Benjamin Wilkin’s DC Grace is upstanding and decent enough to forestall the obvious objection that he doesn’t really need to be in the play at all.

Simona Armstrong, meanwhile, manages the potentially hugely problematic role of Kamila, the comic Croat sex worker with second sight (yes, really) about as well as could be imagined, making her at least partially believable.

This is a largely undemanding affair. But is always at least workmanlike, while Richie and Wallace’s efforts mean it is never less than enjoyable.

Running time – 2 hours 25 minutes (including one interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Monday 29 February – Saturday 5 March 2016
Evenings: 7.30pm; Weds & Sat matinees: 2.30pm
Tickets and details: www.edtheatres.com/perfectmurder

Perfect Murder tour website: http://theperfectmurder.co.uk/
Perfect Murder on Facebook: perfmur
Perfect Murder on Twitter: @PerfMurder

The Perfect Murder on tour:

Mon 29 Feb – Sat 5 March
Edinburgh
Kings Theatre
0131 529 6000
Book online

Mon 7 – Sat 12 March
Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650
Book online

Mon 14 – Sat 19 March
Northampton
Derngate
01604 624811
Book online

Mon 21 – Sat 26 March
Cambridge
Arts Theatre
01223 503333
Book online

Mon 28 March – Sat 2 April
Coventry
Belgrade Theatre
024 7655 3055
Book online

ENDS

Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on RssThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.
Read more...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on RssThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.

Leave a Comment