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Review of The Perfect Murder at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I first saw Peter James' The Perfect Murder about two years ago at Milton Keynes Theatre and for some unknown reason, despite enjoy its dark comedy quite a bit, I never committed a review to page. So I felt having now seen it again with a near brand new cast at my home theatre, I thought I better write a few words.

Based upon James' novella of the same name, adaptor Shaun McKenna has created a funny, frivolous and divertingly entertaining two hour comedy thriller. It is never going to challenge the cerebral matter much, but it offers plenty of fun and just a small amount of intrigue.

When I first saw the play two years ago, Les Dennis and Claire Goose took on the roles and very much made them their own. Dennis was a revelation to me and Goose was everything I wanted (the reason I was there to be honest, as I am a big fan). Filling these roles this time are Shane Ritchie and Jessie Wallace, an all too familiar pairing if you are an Eastenders viewer. They fill the roles well creating slightly different versions of the ones I was familiar with, they do however never wuite match the performances set by Dennis and Goose in appeal.

Personally despite the fact that Ritchie has clearly been made up to appear older. I couldn't help but think that there is not a big enough age gap between the two lead actors like there was between Dennis and Goose. Ritchie however plays the miserable Victor Smiley with evil intent very well, while Wallace maintains her obvious hate of him from the outset. Wallace herself mostly maintains the whiny Sybil Fawlty-esq voice perfected by Goose, only a few times slipping out of it.

It was more unexpected seeing someone in the Roy Grace role than the leads to me and although he was very watchable, Benjamin Wilkin didn't quite work for me in the role, never quite having the presence that you would expect of the character. Stephen Fletcher however as Don though was I felt a much better performance than his predecessor, and highly entertaining as the very fake cockney drawn unwittingly perhaps into the events, despite his dropping of pants being an initially foolish move into the situation. Finally Simona Armstrong remains in the role of prostitute Kamila and two years down the line appears to have made this role fit like a perfect glove.

It was wonderful to see Michael Holt's genuinely excellent set again, made up of extremely clever compartments, revealing different parts of the Smiley household and one section portraying Kamila's bedroom.

The play itself is one to place quite firmly in the sit back and be entertained and don't think too much about it. There are quite frankly a few moments that don't or logically can't work. However if you just sit back and enjoy the often witty dialogue and fighting of the unhappily married couple, you can't help but come away entertained. Quite frankly also, we all need a bit of frivolous entertainment in our lives and The Perfect Murder is well up their in the frivolous stakes, and that on this occasion is very much a compliment.

«««½

Performance reviewed: Monday 14th March, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

The Perfect Murder is on at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 19th March, 2016 before continuing its tour. Details can be found at http://theperfectmurder.co.uk/

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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