Skip to main content

Review of Not Dead Enough at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Following successful tours of Peter James plays The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple, it seemed inevitable that the franchise would continue. This latest, Not Dead Enough, on the evidence of a packed audience on opening night at the Royal & Derngate and a thoroughly entertaining evening, means that there are perhaps to be others in the future.

Like it's predecessor, it is not highbrow theatre likely to win awards, however it has a perhaps more universal appeal than many shows. It is accessible and packed with familiar faces from television which means its the perfect vehicle for a new theatre goer. As in the previous plays, Roy Grace is our investigator (now DS) and this time he has a brutal sexual murder to investigate which may or may not have connections with an unsolved one of the past.

Bill Ward plays Grace in a solid, but perhaps at times over the top manner making you wish he would tone it down a bit. He is impulsive, pacy and often too full on. Never having read the books, it does make me wonder how this role is depicted in them as Ward compared to previous Grace's I have seen, especially that of Steven Miller in The Perfect Murder, is a very different beast altogether.

As pathologist Cleo Morey, TV presenter Laura Whitmore makes a confident stage debut, solid in performance and able to depict the multitude of emotions required genuinely well. It is clear that there is room for improvement as a stage performer, however this is no unnecessary gimmicky casting seeking television or Strictly Come Dancing fans, as she is without doubt worthy of the role. Completing the main three cast members as suspect Brian Bishop is Stephen Billington, also from a deep television background, but clearly more at ease on the stage and able to keep the audience guessing to his characters motives.

There is brilliant support from Michael Quartey as Grace's confident and comical assistant Branson, while Gemma Atkins gives a suitably mysterious performance as Sophie whose motives are at times also unclear. However she features in one of the most challenging scenes in the play and creates an uncomfortable rollercoaster of emotion for the audience as a result of her performance. I was a little unsure of Charlotte Sutherland's portrayal of lawyer Lara, however much of this was because the interview scenes were clearly the weakest element of the play, often feeling too lighthearted and lacking any form of drama.

The set from Michael Holt is smartly realised, offering three locations with occasionally all in use at the same time for neat parellel scenss. There are interestingly some restricted view issues in the mortuary section however if you are seated in one of the several front rows due to an edging on the stage. However overal its neat and clever, allowing director Ian Talbot fast scene changes when they are very occasionally needed.

The story itself from Peter James and adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna weaves a mysterious web of intrigue and is likely to keep most audience members guessing until very late in the day. It very neatly avoids a horrendous crime thriller cliche in the second half, only to perhaps fall into an even more ridiculous one at denouement. However despite getting slightly wacky at the end, it maintains enough credibility to allow this occasionally brutal black comedy to come recommended for regular and perhaps more so, irregular theatre goers.

«««½

Performance reviewed: Tuesday 2nd May, 2017 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

Not Dead Enough is on at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 6th May, 2017 before continuing its tour. Details can be found at http://www.peterjames.com/plays/not-dead-enough/

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

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Blue/Orange at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The challenging and socially relevant Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall was published in 2000 and back then, this caustic exploration of mental health, and more specifically black mental health issues, was a tremendously relevant play. When it debuted on stage in London, the cast of just three was played by Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Director James Dacre doesn't have those names to play with so much in his cast, however here, he has worked with the writer himself to rework the play for a more modern audience. Does it still shock, and is the relevance still there today? Sadly, perhaps, the answer is yes, as doctors Bruce Flaherty and Robert Smith come to verbal blows over the health of patient Christopher, at times, you feel 21 years shed little light on how mental health is approached. Many references in the script, still sit unquestionably in the year 2000, however, with this reworking, one thing has changed dramatically. In the original version of the play, the two

Review of Sister Act by the Northampton Musical Theatre Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

South Pacific at Royal & Derngate last year set a remarkable benchmark for an "amateur" production, with a large talented cast, superb vocals, sets and a polish up there with a professional production. Sister Act, this years production from the Northampton Musical Theatre Company was more of the same, but perhaps taken up a notch or two. Sister Act is a musical based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy and was first performed in 2009. Written by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, it is a likable and fun musical which genuinely came as a surprise to me. The opening scene at Curtis's Bar and Nightclub is to be honest not the best though and genuinely didn't fill me with much hope. It feels as if it gives nothing to the cast, although it creates the premise of the story coupled with the incident outside the bar. Likewise, I didn't take much to the Police Station scene either, so it didn't bode well. When we reach the Queen Of Angels Cathedral though, this show

Review of Shrek (NMTC) at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Three and a half years ago, in a land far far away, in a world very different to the one we are now in, I saw the touring professional production of Shrek The Musical , it was a mixed bag of quality, tilted extremely heavily in favour of one particular character (not the one you might expect) and not firing on all cylinders much of the time. One and a half years after my last visit to the Derngate theatre, I return to see the homegrown Northampton Musical Theatre Company's own take on the very same show. Would they be able to breathe more life into the show than the professionals did in that distant land? It is a bit of a yes and no really. Pretty much all of this is done to the best possible standard, and at times, with being an amateur show you could easily forget, they all have normal day jobs. The show oozes professional quality at times. The set looks magnificent, the costumes (from Molly Limpet's Theatrical Emporium) are superb, and as ever with NMTC, the backstage team c