Dir. Ian Talbot, Theatre Royal, 18th May – 23th May
It’s fun being part of an audience which reacts on queue to twists and turns. In stereotypical crime drama fashion, ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ and gasps of shock erupted from the packed Theatre Royal as the revelations of Peter James’ plot emerged.
Adapted faithfully from James’ best selling Roy Grace detective novel of the same name, Dead Simple follows the aftermath of a reckless stag night prank gone disastrously wrong. Michael Harrison (played by Jamie Lomas) is left alone, buried in a stolen coffin as his friends, drunk on alcohol and adrenaline, abandon him temporarily for a joke. However, the ‘prank’ is short lived as a fatal car crash leads to death and a missing persons investigation…
A novel which has garnered something of a cult following was bound to attract its readers to the play adaptation and, indeed, there were evidently many fans in the audience. However, the authentic gasps of surprise reverberating throughout the theatre indicated that there were many for whom the narrative was unknown.
The fear that the intensity of the plot could be lost in a production of this scale is justified, indeed the characters do feel distant at the beginning, however Michael Taylor’s intricate set design provides the means by which every scene is afforded the significance it deserves and there is something almost cinematic to the way in which the action unfolds . Moreover, as the plot develops, each character becomes integral to the outcome of the mystery.
Josh Brown is brilliant as Davey Wheeler, the somewhat autistic boy who becomes unintentionally caught amidst the unravelling crime and understudy Gemma Stroyan, who has taken the role of Ashley Harper for the entirety of the Glasgow run, provides a strong portrayal of the multifaceted character.
Gloomy forests, money obsessive characters, reckless drunken mistakes and hidden family secrets – Dead Simple has all the opponents of a traditional, strong crime plot but with revelations which you will truly not see coming.
This article was originally published in Qmunicate magazine