IN the classic David Lean film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, several storylines, important in the books, have virtually been edited out in order to make the narrative flow more smoothly and quickly.
Watching this, Shaun McKenna’s fifth stage adaptation of a Peter James novel, that there were just too many twists and turns in the plot to allow the tension and suspense – so necessary in a thriller – to fully develop.
A great deal of the story evolves from father and son Tom (Adam Woodyatt) and Max Bryce (Luke Ward-Wilkinson), discovering a pornographic web site and witnessing a murder taking place. The ramifications involving this site lead to Tom, his wife Kellie (Gaynor Faye) and son Max all being threatened with death in the same cellar that the original murder had taken place, would be easier to follow if you had a full working knowledge of the World Wide Web.
As if this was not enough to deal with, a mysterious American business man (Ian Houghton), and the murderous black-clad Mick (Mylo McDonald) in the cellar are introduced to the complexities of the family relationships. It is Peter James’ cool, calm, analytical Detective Superintendent Roy Grace (Harry Long), a man with a wry line in humour, usually at the expense of his long-suffering Sergeant Branson (Leon Stewart), with the aid of their Girl Friday Detective Bella Moy (Gemma Stroyan), who have to untangle this web of intrigue.
They were not helped in their efforts by spending much of their time in a slide-on-slide-off set that looked like the crowded attic of a tatty unkempt building. rather than a modern Brighton Police Station Office. It really was not in the same class as the other two sets, a modern up-market flat and the cellar-come-studio where the proposed murders were to take place.
When the final denouement came, after even more unlikely twists and turns within the plot, the fact that not enough tension and suspense had been created during the evening was underlined by one or two giggles instead of gasps from the audience. It was as if director Jonathan O’Boyle and adapter Shaun McKenna could not make up their minds as to whether they wanted to stage a tongue-in-cheek comedy thriller or a hard-nosed serious murder mystery drama.
In the end, despite some strong performances from the experienced Adam Woodyatt, and Gaynor Faye and promising portrayals from the youthful Luke Ward-Wilkinson (Max) and Mylo McDonald, the production rather fell between two theatrical stools.