Peter James’ ‘The Perfect Murder’

Having a break from the word processor can pay real dividends. Sometimes a trip to the theatre is called for, and sometimes I am fortunate enough to experience a real gem of a play.

The Perfect Murder is one such play.

Perfect Murder

Peter James got the idea for the novel when he popped a simple enough question to Chief Constable Martin Richards at a charity dinner. I know this as, at the end of the play, Peter and the cast were kind enough to sit with interested members of the audience to answer questions. Peter apparently asked the Chief, “Is there any such thing as the perfect murder?”

The answer became the inspiration for this excellent work.

Shaun McKenna adapted the novel for the stage, and a very good job he made of it.

The play opens with unhappy husband, Victor Smiley (played by Robert Daws) as he discusses his poor marriage with prostitute lover Kamila (Simona Armstrong). We are soon introduced to Victor’s wife, Joan (Dawn Steele) where we learn that theirs is a marriage soon to come to a grisly end.

The action is set in the present day, in a small house in Saltdean, outside Brighton, and in Kamila’s room at The Kitten Parlour, a local brothel.

The entire set is shown on stage in  a very clever way so that the action never ends as scenes switch between the venues. Full credit must go to Simon Bannister and Chris Lambert for their work on the stage design.

'Perfect Murder' the cast

‘Perfect Murder’ the cast

Gray O’Brien is really excellent as Joan’s lover, Don Kirk and, it was fun, as Roy Grace fans, to be introduced to a young Detective Constable Grace, ably portrayed by Thomas Howes. Thomas captured the character perfectly and reminded me of many young detectives, recently transferred from uniform duty, even down the the style of his beat-duty shoes.

I wonder how many followers of Coronation Street, who saw Gray playing Toni (the Glaswegian businessman), were convinced he was a scot. I was, but now, having listened to his entertaining and engaging ‘Don Kirk, I was left wondering if he was a cockney.

Dawn Steele has always been a favourite of mine. I loved her in ‘Wild at Heart; where she played Alice Collins. Her performance in ‘Perfect Murder’ is excellent and gave a real insight into her ability to play a wide variety of roles. ‘Joanie’ is very different from ‘Alice’.

My final, and most effusive praise must go to Robert Daws, who really makes the character of Victor Smiley his own. Victor is entertaining, amusing, threatening and believable. Robert Daws is an incredible talent. I wonder how he has found the time to also pen an excellent book, The Rock, which had been getting many excellent reviews.

Dead simple

Well done, Peter James. An excellent evening entertainment. I for one, plan to go and see the next one, Dead Simple, which opens in early 2015. I understand that Gray O’Brien will be playing an older Roy Grace. I cannot wait!

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