Reviewed by Alison Ruck
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
There’s a real appetite for crime dramas currently. From Netflix to the BBC, there’s always something new within this genre to thrill and enthral audiences. ‘Looking Good Dead’ is the crime drama audiences are craving, live on stage.
Peter James is known as WH Smith’s ‘Best Crime Author of all time’; his 2006 novel ‘Looking Good Dead’ reached No2 in the Sunday Times paperback best seller list. It’s clear to see why as you unpick the story.
The story centres around the Bryce family: a typical family from Brighton, with your regular family squabbles, moody teenagers and standard day to day life – but their lives turn from the everyday to the sinister with one phone call. Tom Bryce (Adam Woodyatt) and son Max (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) inadvertently witness a murder after finding a USB stick on a train. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace (Harry Long) steps in to try and crack the case in time to save the family’s lives.
With a star-studded cast including Adam Woodyatt as Tom, best known for playing Ian Beale in ‘Eastenders’, and a recent stint on 2021’s ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’. Adam is joined by fellow soap actress Gaynor Faye as his wife Kellie, who recently starred in The BBC’s ‘The Syndicate’.
The staging is brilliant, with a modern house acting as the main focus where most of the action unfolds. Divided by a sheer cloth, behind the house of the Bryce family lies an ominous warehouse setting complete with steel beams and chains. Completing the set is a movable police office which joins the stage with its own soundtrack music, further adding to that typical BBC crime drama atmosphere of the play.
The first act did take some time to develop into the gripping drama it became, filling the majority of the act with steamily unnecessary scenes and information. However, as the second act opens, we’re immediately thrust into the crime drama etiquettes, audiences know and love.
The second act was filled with twists and turns, the climax of which leaving unfamiliar audiences with a shocking revelation. One thing that is missed from the magic of television and filming within this genre is the use of clever and creeping camera angles that build suspense, unfortunately an element live theatre just cannot provide, leaving some of the more suspenseful moments lacking flair.
The action scenes, which were few and far between consisted of lacklustre punches and tackles which could be further refined and dramatic, however the strength of the plot and its surprise moments carried the play.
The adaptation from novel to stage did miss the mark in some places, with cheesy jokes (which to be fair did produce chuckles from the audience) and often over-descriptive dialogue which weren’t inspiring in a theatrical setting.
Although maybe not as dark and serious as many of the crime dramas around today, ‘Looking Good Dead’ still makes for an enjoyable piece of theatre that can definitely appeal to crime-drama-genre lovers.
You can catch ‘Looking Good Dead’ at The Lowry Theatre in Salford until Saturday 22nd January tickets available here.