Director: Ian Talbot
Author: Peter James
Stage Adaption: Shaun McKenna
Review: Laura Hesketh
Murder, mystery and DS Roy Grace come to Bristol in Not Dead Enough, the third instalment of Peter James’ successful detective novels, as the author reunites once again with Shaun McKenna and Olivier award-winning director Ian Talbot.
DS Roy Grace, played by EastEnders star Shane Richie, has a new case: to find the killer of wealthy socialite Katie Bishop. With the help of Michael Quartey’s Glenn Branson and Laura Whitmore’s Cleo Morey, the clock is ticking for the trio to find the murderer before he strikes again.
Despite having all the elements of a chilling and classic whodunit, which would thrive as a detective series on screen, the play is slow and stagnant. The overwhelming number of ostensibly compelling twists and turns that are compressed into two hours simply emphasises the performance’s lack of suspense. Unlike with a television drama, the audience is so removed from the vital forensics and gritty details it is impossible for them to step into the shoes of a detective. There is little shock factor and the delivery of the play’s final revelations is questionable.
There are some gasp-worthy scenes, including one memorable moment involving a drill in the mortuary, that are successfully executed by Stephen Billington with his portrayal of the mysterious Brian Bishop. Billington handles his character’s dark secret with aplomb and is a worthy opponent for Grace.
The play also successfully revisits troubled Grace’s struggle with his own personal demons. A contrast to the cheeky loveable rogue, Alfie Moon, Richie approaches the detective’s internal conflict well as he is haunted by ghosts of past and present. Despite Grace being a troubled individual, Richie is still able to showcase his natural comic timing bringing warmth to the neurotic detective.
In her acting debut, Whitmore has embraces the role of Cleo and ensures the pathologist is more than just Grace’s love interest. However, her performance is, at times, uneven and her lack of experience shows particularly towards the crucial climax of the performance.
Predominantly set in a police station and mortuary, Michael Holt’s set is simple yet effective and allows scenes in numerous locations to seamlessly unfold simultaneously. The production examines humanity and the constant traffic of dead bodies to and from the mortuary serves as a constant reminder of the fragility of life.
A play that would perhaps work better on screen, or even in a more intimate theatre, Not Dead Enough is an enjoyable night out for crime buffs and fans of Peter James’ novels but is not a performance which gets the heart racing.
Runs until 4 March 2017 and continues to tour | Image: Contributed