CentralDramaReview

Looking Good Dead – Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Reviewer: Selwyn Knight

Writer: Peter James

Adaptor:  Shaun McKenna

Director: Jonathan O’Boyle

Business owner Tom Bryce picks up a memory stick left on the train. Inexplicably, he decides to take it home and see what’s on it in a bid to ‘do the right thing’ and get it back to its owner. The stick leads him to a dark website: as he and his teenage son look on in horror they see a murder streamed live for entertainment. And it gets worse – the website also tracks the connection and he and his family quickly come under threat. As the threat escalates and with Tom’s wife in danger, can Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and his team unravel what’s going on and save the day?

This is more thriller than whodunnit as we watch the cat-and-mouse between the mysterious masked men of the website and Tom and his family. An ingenious multi-levelled set from Michael Holt, complemented by Jason Taylor’s lighting design, allows the action to switch quickly between the Bryce household and the menacing film location. A small segment slides in and out to transport us to the police station hub of Grace and his team. The whole piece takes place in those three locations and has a somewhat static feel to it. While the characters use modern technology, we mostly rely on them to relay what they see, hear or read, or, indeed, to report on action that takes place elsewhere. One can’t help feeling that the use of projections or similar could make the whole feel more dynamic. While the pace before the interval is steady, if not plodding, as the characters and their interactions are set up, after the interval the pace accelerates and the plot starts to take unexpected turns before the final dénouement.

On a break from Eastenders, Adam Woodyatt plays Tom Bryce. It’s quickly clear that the Bryces have a few skeletons in their own cupboards, and Woodyatt portrays Tom’s increasing desperation, first with money troubles, later as his family are in danger, well. One does get the feeling of someone trying to do his best for the family but making increasingly poor choices under stress along the way. Another Eastenders alumna, Laurie Brett, plays finds herself married to Woodyatt again as Tom’s wife, Kellie. Kellie’s backstory has left her a deeply unhappy character who copes by secretly drinking and obsessive spending and cleaning. It’s difficult not to feel sorry for her as Brett shows her journey sympathetically throughout the story. Luke Ward-Wilkinson brings us Max, the surly teenage son who simply wants to escape the point-scoring and arguing that surrounds him. Ward-Wikinson’s Max is always on the edge, someone who is unpredictable with the potential to spoil the best-laid plans.

Harry Long doesn’t really have too much to do as Grace and we never quite get the measure of the man in his rather stiff portrayal. He’s not presented as a cerebral detective, rather, we see Grace and his team following procedure, chasing down leads and, ultimately, solving the case. There’s some attempt at light-hearted banter with his colleagues, played by Leon Stewart and Gemma Stroyan but the balance doesn’t feel quite right – one might expect to see more of Grace and his team.

Nevertheless, this is a well-constructed plot that comes together satisfyingly, though the build-up could perhaps be a bit tighter. Loose ends are tied and any plot holes are forgiven. It’s escapist entertainment that’s well worth taking a punt on.

Runs Until 12 March 2022 and touring

The Reviews Hub Score

Escapist entertainment

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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