Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.