In the third outing between prolific author Peter James and stage adaptor Shaun McKenna, the winning formula of human nature’s morbid fascination with murder paired with a thrill and chill ride of mystery suspense is deftly brought to the stage in Not Dead Enough.
Starring Bill Ward of Emmerdale fame in the role of DS Roy Grace – taking over from Shane Ritchie – the Detective Superintendent is trying to get on with life but is still haunted by the disappearance of his wife 10 years ago. He’s currently investigating the death of respected fundraiser Katie Bishop, found strangled, stabbed, and hand-cuffed to her bed wearing a WWII gas mask. Husband Brian Bishop (Stephen Billington) is in the frame but protests he was 60 miles away, asleep in bed.
As DS Grace digs deeper into the case, the plot thickens, as he discovers love can be dangerous, risking the safety of mortician girlfriend Cleo Morey (Laura Whitmore), and he is forced to ask himself, could a serial killer return from his past?
Slickly directed by Ian Talbot – also on his third collaboration of James’ adaptations for stage – it opens strongly with a murder in front of the curtain, immediately getting down to the business end of James’ web of deceits and mistrust, with the responsive audience enjoying the contemporary caper with its twist and turns keeping all suitably engaged and intrigued with laughs and gasps.
However, with a mixed bag of performances (some very wooden), a script that has to sacrifice realism for ensuring information is carried through text, and a set that’s out to get you alongside a murderer, this production never manages to shake the corny, missing some subtleties in character charisma and the perfect opportunity to transport us away in the grip of gruesome terror in a climactic scene, which came over more like a panto ripping off James Bond.
runs until Sat 29 April