Mates on a stag night . . . mare

dead simple cst

Dead Simple

Malvern Theatres

****

STAG nights have grown in excitement and extravagance, but Peter James’ play takes the idea to a whole new level when Michael Harrison is about to marry his fiancée Ashley.

He has played some tricks on some of his friends on their stag nights, so together they have planned to get revenge, and they do so outrageously.

Their scheme results in the disappearance of their friend and there follows a desperate attempt to recover him before disaster strikes.

Peter James’ trusty detective, Superintendent Roy Grace, is coaxed on to the case and so develops a rollercoaster of ups and downs, twists and turns, to keep the audience guessing about what is going to unfold next.

This stage adaptation of a crime thriller novel requires some complexity in design to provide the necessary and varied settings for the action of the play – the interior of Michael Harrison’s flat, the road approaching the forest, the forest itself and various other settings above and below ground! Michael Taylor’s clever set manages to provide all the necessary elements to provide a context for the many surprises in store for the audience.

The sound effects add filmic atmosphere to the development of the plot and with the occasional crash, explosion or gunfire, the audience is kept on edge and ready for anything!

The nature of the genre is that the characters are slightly shallow and not totally credible. This is important as we cannot afford to get too sympathetic with them or we would find the demise of some or many of them distressing and somewhat tragic.

They are therefore not quite real, their relationships not fully convincing, and the twists in the plot are eventually so surprising and unlikely that we tend to focus our minds in great measure on trying to answer the questions and solve the riddles that the plot presents to us. Where has the body gone?

Nonetheless there has to be sufficient engagement with the characters and their fates that we are caught up in the story and suspend disbelief sufficiently to be excited by their fortunes. Once or twice the twists were just a bit too much and the audience was moved to laugh at the improbabilities. However this is all part of the fun and the nature of the genre.

Tina Hobley, of Holby City fame, provides a voluptuous ‘honeypot’ and is pivotal to the developing story. Her performance is captivating and varied. Jamie Lomas, Rik Makarem and Michael McKell surround her as Michael Harrison, Mark Warren and Bradley Cunningham respectively; their dialogue is quick, sharp and often witty and they keep the plot moving along briskly.

Josh Brown as the autistic Davey Wheeler provides some comedy as well as frustrating incompetence although at times his words and the dialogue over the walkie-talkies was unclear.

The detectives played by Gray O’Brien and Marc Small completed a strong core and added some lightness as well as pursuing the course of justice and truth and the ultimate criminal.

This was a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment – light, frivolous and exaggerated in the end, but sufficiently convincing to carry the audience along with its characters. The adaptation for the stage works very well; the show provides some genuinely scary moments and surprises as the story unfolds. Audiences love a story and this audience was royally entertained. To 14-02-15

Tim Crow

08-02-15 

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