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Tuesday, 14 September 2021

REVIEW: Looking Good Dead at the New Victoria Theatre

Peter James has written 36 crime detective novels many featuring his Brighton based Detective Roy Grace and won many awards for his writing with five adapted for the stage and two, Dead Simple and Looking Good Dead adapted for the TV screen. There can be no denying his writing credentials but, in the adaptions, he is reliant on someone else squeezing down his words into a two-hour show. In March 2017 I saw Dead Simple at the Mill at Sonning which has subsequently been adapted into a TV film to much better effect. The problem is portraying multiple locations on a stage and his reliance on technology at the centre of both stories adds to the adaption problems. In Dead Simple, it was a walkie talkie and mobile phones to develop the drama and in Looking Good Dead it is iPads, laptops and noise-cancelling headphones as well as mobiles phones at the centre of the story. These don’t translate easily to the stage.

In his programme notes James writes “one of the essences of drama is that something seemingly utterly normal and every day goes wrong” but in this plot, nothing seems utterly normal at any point. Are we seriously asked to believe that that Tom has found a computer memory stick on a train seat and brings it home to view the contents? James goes on to write he loves to “have you sitting on the edge of your seats, wracked with nervous tension until right up to the very end” but sadly this adaption by Shaun Mckenna had me laid back in my seat in utter disbelief. The situation seemed ludicrous, the characters were all one dimensional and most of the twists and turns were blatantly obvious. Why on earth are we meant to accept that the American Jonas Kent who turns up at Tom’s house ordering 12 Rolex yellow gold Oyster watches for £300,000 is anything but fake? Or that Tom’s business offers “high-end bespoke services” and could deliver this?
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