REVIEW: Peter James’ Dead Simple – Theatre Royal, Glasgow
There’s something satisfying about a good old theatrical thriller that drags you to the edge of your seat and keeps you there until the curtain falls. And that’s what Shaun McKenna achieves in his second adaptation of a Peter James crime novel: following on the heels of last year’s audience pleaser A Perfect Murder this time it’s Dead Simple.
Beginning with a stag night prank gone horribly wrong, property developer Michael Harris finds himself buried six feet under in a remote forest, the only people who know his whereabouts, dead in a car crash. What follows are dodgy dealings, a trawler full of red herrings and a plot that leads you up more garden paths than the Chelsea Flower Show.
The cast of well-known TV faces on the whole serve up solid performances, stand out among them Josh Brown’s well-measured turn as Davey a young man with learning difficulties and an obsession for US TV cop shows, a young man whose tenuous link to reality could mean life or death for Harris, and Gray O’Brien as our slightly less than by-the-book hero Det. Supt. Roy Grace.
Michael Taylor’s multi-level set design, Mark Howett’s lighting and Martin Hodgson’s sound design give the production a televisual feel and serve to crank up the suspense.
Whilst it’s undeniably entertaining and thoroughly engaging, the plot tests the bounds of credibility: no sooner has one suspect been exposed than another looms centre-stage, it also doesn’t stand up to more than the briefest surface scrutiny. The characterisations too, are bordering on two-dimensional and the dialogue is simplistic and at times a tad clunky. However, for all its faults it still serves up a shed-load of surprises and manages to hugely entertain. A theatrical thrill ride that’s well worth watching.
Runs until Sat 23 May at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow
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