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Dead Simple's Multiple Plot Twists Keep Audience Guessing to the Very End

Dead Simple cast. L-R: Pete Davis, Louise Woodward, Neil Baines, Tom Leon-Grimes, Dan McAteer. Photo by Steve Vent.

Dead Simple, by Peter James at The Priory Theatre, Kenilworth until 20 July 2024. Directed by Karen Shaylor.

Review by Charles Essex


Police dramas with curmudgeonly slightly eccentric detectives with put-upon sidekicks who use offbeat methods to solve cases are fairly common so a crime thriller would need something special to raise it above the ordinary.  This production of Dead Simple from the Peter James oeuvre at The Priory had three advantages: a superb plot with more twists and turns than a B road in the Scottish Highlands; a cast who were clearly well rehearsed and committed; and excellent direction from Karen Shaylor.


This reviewer was not familiar with Superintendent Roy Grace, a lead character in many of James’s novels but Neil Baines was superb as the eponymous detective aided by his partner Sergeant Branson [Dan McAteer].  Neil and Dan had a great onstage understanding conveying a professional respect as they set about solving a missing persons case.


Mark [Tom Leon-Grimes] and Michael [Ben Smith] were financially successful yuppies.  Michael’s forthcoming wedding to Ashley [Louise Woodward] needed the obligatory stag night, which went horribly wrong and Michael's whereabouts were seemingly unknown.


Ashley was outstanding as the distraught fiancée.  Mark was convincing as his emotions seesawed about his best friend’s disappearance.  Pete Davis as Uncle Bobo, the benign favourite uncle from Canada, depicted his support and protection for his niece.  Inevitably Grace was suspicious.


Clever use of drop-down curtains and staging on different levels allowed the action to take place in 11 different locations.  The flow of the action was not interrupted by lights down between different scenes as the tension built and the audience’s suspicions were led in different directions.  Micheal’s distress in his predicament [no spoilers] was especially well portrayed. 


The only down side was poor sound quality when Michael was speaking through the walkie talkie in the first act.  However, this was yet another first rate Priory production which kept the audience guessing right to the end. 



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