‘Have you read any Peter James?’, a former colleague asked me. ‘No’, I replied, as I took to my seat, writes Daniel Bailey.
‘I’ve read about ten of his books and he’s very good,’ he said of the multi-million selling author.
So the expectation bar was set for this world stage premiere of James’s Dead Smiple, with a jam-packed Nottingham Theatre Royal hungry for a night of mystery, intrigue and pure horror.
There was a bit of a local flavour to savour too in the form of Chesterfield’s Rik Makarem, who most people will remember as the hapless Nikhil Sharma in Emmerdale.
Along with ‘our Rik’, there was an all-star cast to enjoy which included Tina Hobley (Holby City), Jamie Lomas (Hollyoaks) and Gray O’Brien (who can forget the evil Tony Gordon in Coronation Street?).
The drama begins to unfold when property tycoon Michael is about to marry his attractive secretary Ashley, but after being the culprit of a series of crazy stag-do pranks in the past, his mates decide
it’s time for revenge and pretend to bury him alive.
But it all goes terribly wrong after Michael’s pals die in a car crash, leaving the stricken groom-to-be underground and left-for-dead without anyone knowing of his whereabouts.
Or do they? By the interval we are gripped as it becomes a guessing game as to who the villain may be and who stands to benefit most from the property developer’s untimely demise.
With so many twists and turns and just when you thought the game had been given away, the plot changed, drawing gasps a-plenty from the fixated audience.
Would the culprit get away with it? Not if Det Supt Roy Grace (Gray O’Brien) and his trusty sidekick Det Sgt Branson (Marc Small) got in there first.
There are quite a few gory moments throughout and plenty of dead bodies. Hobley is excellent as the often scantily-clad Ashley, as is Lomas as Michael, who had to act from the inside of a coffin for half the show.
Makarem was superb as Michael’s shifty partner and ‘best mate’ Mark, with autistic youngster Davey (Josh Brown) adding some humour to the story with his failure to differentiate between fantasy and reality.
Watch out for a fine performance too from Doctors’ Michael McKell as Bradley Cunningham.
As for the set, it was simple, but effective, consisting of Michael’s posh flat in Brighton and Davey’s bedsit along with some clever background lighting effects to depict night-time traffic.
Was this play Dead Simple to figure out? Far from it. But it truly was the stuff of nightmares!
Dead Simple is on at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday, April 18. Visit www.trch.co.uk for details.
Photo by Alastair Muir