Theatre review: Dead Simple

Gray O'Brien  Pic: Comp
Gray O'Brien Pic: Comp
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GENTS, if you are going out on a stag-do this weekend, you might want to think twice about playing any elaborate pranks on the groom - especially if it involves burying your best friend in a coffin in the woods.

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That’s the suffocating premise to Shaun McKenna’s adaptation of Peter James’ best-selling crime novel; a lengthy, wooden farce about wealthy, soon-to-be-married property developer Michael Harrison, whose ‘disappearance’ causes the story to take more predictable twists than a corkscrew. Think Shallow Grave meets The Bill at a Quentin Tarantino film convention.

Given the number of TV soap actors on stage – Jamie Lomas, Tina Hobley, Rik Makarem to name but three – it’s as if the production has deliberately targeted people who would normally forgo live theatre in favour of watching an ITV detective drama. Sadly, you don’t get to shoot a second take on stage, hence the delivery of lines sometimes comes across as stiff and two-dimensional.

That said, whenever Gray O’Brien’s scene-stealing Detective Superintendent Roy Grace hits the stage, you hope he’ll stay on longer than anyone else.

Grace’s want to consult a ‘psychic,’ to aid his investigation is an indulgence that contributes little. However, Josh Brown lends a more interesting element to the story as Davey, a young man with a learning disability.

There are a couple of genuine scares along the way, too. Sadly, the ‘in-the-grave’ scenes fail to convey the horrifying claustrophobia as well as they should.

Had McKenna made more of the sub-text that alluded to a possible homosexual relationship between two of the main characters, then Dead Simple might have resonated more deeply. Unfortunately, all roads lead to a slow-burning Scooby-Doo-type ending - where the real baddie lies underneath half-a-dozen other people’s masks.

Crime fans may dig it, but for those who aren’t, it’s a show perhaps best left buried.

Run ends Saturday