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Peter James' Dead Simple - UK Theatre Tour Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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More Twists And Turns Than A Waltzer In Murder Mystery
Peter James' murder mystery novels featuring Detective Superintendant Roy Grace have become a hit with crime lovers worldwide, selling 15 million copies in 36 languages, so it's no wonder that they have started to be adapted for stage.

Dead Simple, UK Theatre Tour, Peter James, Tina Hobley, Jamie Lomas, Rik Makarem, Gray O'Brien, Birmingham, Canterbury,
Twists and turns in murder mystery Dead Simple


Dead Simple is the second of James' book to appear in theatres following the success of The Perfect Murder starring Les Dennis, which toured last year.

This time around there is a line-up of well known soap actors including Gray O'Brien (Coronation Street), who was also in The Perfect Murder as a suspect but returns as an impressive Det Supt Grace. He fits the role well and has a charming rapport with Marc Small, playing his policeman sidekick Det Sgt Branson.

There's also Tina Hobley (Coronation Street and Holby City), Jamie Lomas (EastEnders) and Rik Makarem (Emmerdale) helping to draw in crowds.

I caught the show during the UK tour at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre, where it stays until July 4 before moving on to Canterbury and Worthing.

Dead Simple, UK Theatre Tour, Peter James, Tina Hobley, Jamie Lomas, Rik Makarem, Gray O'Brien, Birmingham, Canterbury,
Gray O'Brien is a strong lead as Det Supt Roy Grace


It's a macabre storyline with a high body count and endless twists and turns that will keep you guessing right until the end. The show opens with childhood friends and property developers Michael and Mark preparing to go on Michael's stag night.

From early on, there are obviously secrets hanging in the air as the pair are doing some dodgy dealings involving bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.

Dead Simple, UK Theatre Tour, Peter James, Tina Hobley, Jamie Lomas, Rik Makarem, Gray O'Brien, Birmingham, Canterbury,
A stag do prank goes wrong leaving Michael trapped in a coffin


The first 30 minutes of the play starts off as a stag-do prank gone wrong, with Michael ending up begging for help, trapped underground in a coffin with only a walkie talkie and an air tube for comfort. Soon after, the action swiftly changes gear, ahead of the interval, to add more mysteries and malicious intentions.

Among the cast of suspects and strangers for Det Supt Grace to investigate are Michael's glamorous fiance Ashley (Tina Hobley), her visiting uncle from Canada and an autistic teenager.

Dead Simple, UK Theatre Tour, Peter James, Tina Hobley, Jamie Lomas, Rik Makarem, Gray O'Brien, Birmingham, Canterbury,
Tina Hobley is one of the former soap stars in Dead Simple


It's an intriguing stage with separate sections and different forms of media used to portray Michael in the coffin and his conversations over the walkie talkie.

Gray O'Brien stands out in the show as the detective hero, but he's also a breath of fresh air as he seems to be relishing the role and also has a touch of tongue in cheek about him, especially when he delivers the last line of the play.

For those who are fans of the series, they may be disappointed that Det Supt Grace's relationship with psychic Zoe features only briefly and you can practically blink and miss the short appearances by former Hollyoak's actress Sarah Baxendale as Zoe in this play.

All in all, as who-dunnits go, Dead Simple is a pleasant enough show that will keep murder mystery fans guessing. For Peter James fans, I've no doubt that there will be more adaptations to come based on the reception this play received from the audience.

Rating: 6 /10

Peter James' Dead Simple
UK Tour

June 29 - July 4 - Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre
Tickets from the ATG ticket website.

July 6 - 11 - Canterbury Marlowe Theatre
Tickets are available online from the Dead Simple tour website.

July 13 - 18 - Worthing, Connaught Theatre
Tickets are available online from the Dead Simple tour website.
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Why? Murder mystery with endless twists and turns
When: Until July 18
Phone: Birmingham - 0844 871 3011; Canterbury - 01227 787787; Worthing 01903 206 206
Where: UK tour - Birmingham, Canterbury and Worthing
Cost: 12.90 - 38.90
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