Churchill Theatre, Bromley – until 13 February 2016
Guest reviewer: Bhakti Gajjar
There really is such a thing as the perfect murder, so the audience is informed by a gleeful Victor Smiley near the beginning of this play: it’s the one you’ve never heard of.
The Perfect Murder is a stage adaptation of Peter James’ novella of the same name, itself inspired by a conversation that James had had with a chief constable in which the policeman had suggested that “we all, at some point in our lives, consider killing someone.”
And so begins a tale of premeditated murder. Victor (Shane Ritchie) plans to murder wife Joan (Jessie Wallace), in the perfect solution to a dead marriage now filled with resentment and endless arguing. There’s a familiarity to the set up; a childless couple, married for 20 years, with nothing to entertain them but each other.
James’ story moves between a small 1960s house in Saltdean, just outside Brighton and a room at The Kitten Parlour, a brothel in the town. Michael Holt’s set is beautifully crafted, allowing seamless transitions between the various elements.
The story may be a bold premise but it is tackled with heaps of comic effect predominantly through the script, but also through well-timed physical humour. The play is, after all, dealing with murder – in a very black comedy.
Ritchie and Wallace are outstanding, bringing to the stage elements of the television relationship that they are most well-known for. Throughout, their interactions deliver plenty of laughs. Ritchie is particularly brilliant, switching between monologues – in which he explains his grand ideas – and dialogue with Wallace, delivered with a dry acknowledgement that the audience is aware of the true meaning behind his words.
Completing the line-up are Simona Armstrong, Stephen Fletcher and Benjamin Wilkin, who plays a young Roy Grace, the star of James’ internationally best-selling crime thriller series.
The full house attests to the crime genre’s perennial appeal. While some in the audience may have been drawn by the leads’ star appeal, the strength of this production stands on its own.
Runs until 13th February, then on tour. Reviewed by: Bhakti GajjarPhoto credit: Honeybunn Photography