Review: Not Dead Enough

MURDER: Bill Ward as DS Grace leads his team in search of a killerMURDER: Bill Ward as DS Grace leads his team in search of a killer
MURDER: Bill Ward as DS Grace leads his team in search of a killer
KINKY sex, vicious lies and a plethora of red herrings permeate Not Dead Enough, the latest best-seller from the pen of Peter James to be adapted for the stage.King's Theatre, Leven Street* * *

It’s a heady mix no doubt familiar to fans of such thrillers, teasing and taxing audiences to work out whodunnit before the investigation officer, in this case Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, played by ex-Emmerdale and Corrie star Bill Ward.

Katie Bishop was found hand-cuffed to her bed, strangled, stabbed, and wearing a WWII gas mask.

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Her husband is in the frame for the killing. There’s just one problem, on the night Brian Bishop is supposed to have murdered his wife, he was 60 miles away, asleep in bed. At least that’s what he claims.

As DS Grace continues to deal with the mysterious disappearance of his own wife, he starts to dig a little deeper into this latest chilling murder.

It soon becomes clear that love can be a dangerous thing, and he’s faced with the question, could a serial killer from his past have resurfaced?

And so, with all the ingredients in place for a contemporary, if corny, crime caper the scene is set.

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Played out as a police procedural on a split level set, the action unfolds in Brighton and Hove Police Station and the local mortuary, drawing gasps of shock and chatter from an audience that, were they better versed in the genre, would know better.

Cut from the mould of numerous TV detectives who have gone before, Ward’s investigating officer is a copper with a nose for when things aren’t quite right.

It’s a commanding performance from Ward who creates a nicely three dimensional character.

That Ward and Strictly Come Dancing’s Laura Whitmore, who plays Cleo Morey, local mortician and Grace’s love interest, share an easy chemistry makes them a very believable couple.

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If Whitmore is comfortable in her role, others are less so and there are liberal servings of ham on offer, as well one performance that needs a ‘Beware of Splinters’ warning.

Gemma Stroyan, however, is particularly strong as feisty Malteeser eating copper Bella Moy.

As the body count rises, as body counts must, Shaun McKenna’s unintentionally funny script draws murmurs of laughter, as does Ian Talbot’s staging, which at times looks like an accident just waiting to happen.

That said, for two hours, twist upon twist, and bluff after bluff, ensure the action flows, although the ultimate dénouement is heavily telegraphed early in Act II.

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Sadly, any semblance of truth has all but evaporated by that final reveal, a bemusingly over-played melodrama that fails to provide the pay-off required.

That’s the problem with adaptations of gory crime novels, in the readers imagination the violence is always far more graphic than can be depicted on stage, and the piece relies on that for impact rather than laughs.

Run ends Saturday