The Perfect Murder, Priory Theatre, Kenilworth to October 26
Four performances into its run and this assured production by the Priory Theatre is a sold out on this review night.
Successful thriller writer Peter James has written an enduring series of Detective Roy Grace novels, three of which have which have been successful recycled for the stage.
This incarnation started life as a short story, without our hero, but after the name recognition from the books, he was shoehorned in as the (minor) police presence.
The play opens with a split level set where one raised bedroom serves for two locations. Good use of diegetic sound help anchor the action, clever lighting and swift changes enhance the scene transitions. The wardrobe selections are a good fit, only Roy Grace’s Columbo mackintosh seems hackneyed - or is it iconic ironic?
Director Stuart Lawson has drawn natural performances from his small cast leads: Chris Cortopassi and Anne Bowen bicker like married veterans. The opening scene is so intimate the audience feels like voyeurs. All the players handle the sharp dialogue with ease and some of the set pieces have the power to shock or amuse, as in the wrapping of the body, which is a slapstick work of art. Here the wife is aided by diamond geezer, mockney Don Kirk. Played by Mike McCluskey, he keeps the irritating rhyming slang going ad nauseam.
Kate Bones plays Croatian sex-worker Kamila with sympathy and perfect pitch. The scenes with her lover again show intimacy and the “psychic” McGuffin with Grace, played by Daniel McAteer, also rings true. The female roles stand out within a very strong ensemble cast.
James’ writing contrasts the mundane domestic setting of seaside suburbia with a twisty murder plot (or two). There is enough humour, dastardly deeds and jump out moments to satisfy any audience. On a cold autumn night you will find “not so cosy” distraction at the Priory. Just look behind the curtains when you get home.
0333 666 3366 (Mon-Fri 9am-7pm; Sat 9am-5pm).