dead good

Adam Woodyatt as Tom Bryce and Gaynor Faye as his wife Kellie.

Picture: Alastair Muir

Looking Good Dead

Malvern Theatres


Writer Peter James has a knack for creating a satisfying thriller that always manages to surprise. So, crime fans are naturally turning up in droves for this latest offering.

Named best crime author of all time by WH Smith, he's a prolific wordsmith along with being a creator of cunning plots that don't disappoint, but will Looking Good Dead continue that form?

There's been several adaptations to stage in recent years featuring his enigmatic hero Det Supt Roy Grace, which have worked well and always have a well known cast of actors from TV, including Les Dennis.

This time around it's Gaynor Faye (Emmerdale, Coronation Street, West End hits) and Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale from EastEnders in his first stage role since leaving the soap opera after 36 years), who are well suited to recreate the suburban kitchen sink characters in this crime drama.

They are slick on stage as Kellie and Tom Bryce, who with their teenage son Max, get caught up in unwittingly witnessing a 'snuff movie' online, where someone is killed for real.

Their own family and work troubles are neatly wrapped around the murders taking place, which means Grace's personal life takes a back seat in this latest clever offering.

In fact, the police element of the show is sidelined to a small wheeled on desk at regular intervals with its own soundtrack.

Harry Long as Grace doesn't make much of an impression but seems to have less stage time than his predecessors in previous plays like Dead Simple and Not Dead Enough.

The police conversations tend to be the lighter element of the play, focused around Grace's colleague Glenn Branson and his silly jokes that raise a few chuckles.

It's a good balance with the darker elements of the plot and domestic quarrels taking place elsewhere - not too dissimilar to EastEnders in places.

What's refreshing is that this play feels right up to date, using aspects of code breaking on the internet, bitcoin and latest technology within the plot.

Luke Ward-Wilkinson playing IT savvy teenager Max deserves special mention as his performance feels very natural on stage and matches the more famous faces around him.

As usual, there's plenty of twists and a rising body count with the action speeding up after the interval. It's solid tense drama until the final few erratic minutes.

Ultimately, James is a master at keeping the audience guessing and adding an element of surprise, which he does again.

Crime fans are in for a thoroughly satisfying treat.

Looking Good Dead is at Malvern Theatres this week, to 4 September, then continues on tour arriving at Birmingham's Alexandra Theatre from February 21 to 26 next year.

Alison Brinkworth


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