BWW Review: NOT DEAD ENOUGH, King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Not Dead Enough is the third stage adaptation of a Peter James novel to tour in recent years, following The Perfect Murder in 2014 and Dead Simple in 2015.
Dead Simple introduced the character of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, and - since the book's publication in 2005 - the series has proved to be popular. Each summer since then, a new DS Grace novel has been published, with the 13th title due in next month. Not Dead Enough is the third book in the series.
On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife, he was 60 miles away, asleep in bed. At least that's what he claims. But as DS Grace continues to deal with the mysterious disappearance of his own wife, he starts to dig a little deeper into the chilling murder case and it soon becomes clear that love can be a dangerous thing.
The novel has been an undeniable success, but this stage adaptation is a little less assured. The pace is variable and generally on the slow side, whilst character development is rather thin. For those who haven't read the book, the story is clearly told and the sense of mystery just about lasts until the end, but it's harder to find much that would make this production worth seeing for those who know in advance what is going to happen.
From this week of the tour onwards, Bill Ward has taken over the pivotal role of DS Grace from Shane Ritchie. Overall Ward's performance displays reasonable depth, particularly when the play explores elements of Grace's past, and notably Laura Whitmore does well to make love interest Cleo into a sympathetic and believable character. Stephen Billington, as suspect Brian Bishop, has a more challenging role to play, however, and the characterisations of severAl Smaller parts do at times seem like wasted opportunities.
The first half builds up the tension well, and the conclusion certainly provokes plenty of interval discussion, so it is a disappointment when the second half somewhat fails to live up to this, both in terms of storyline and acting. Props and set occasionally have a mind of their own, and the sudden insertions of background music can't be relied upon to add to the menace, but there are some genuinely thrilling moments which make the audience gasp rather than laugh.
Director Ian Talbot and stage adaptor Shaun McKenna have both collaborated with James before, but this production does serve as a reminder that not all popular novels transfer seamlessly to the stage.
Picture credit: Mark Douet