The Perfect Murder at the Theatre Royal, Bath

The Perfect Murder TourPETER James is one of the UK’s best known crime writers, with his 25 novels translated into 36 languages, and his novella The Perfect Murder spending 15 weeks at the top of the best seller charts.

Last year it was announced that the book would be adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna, and audiences at Bath can see the theatrical version until Saturday 18th January, after its Dartford opening.

James is interested in the paranormal, and also in the human potential to commit murder, and both figure large in this story.

Set in the present day in a village near Brighton, it’s about Victor, a middle aged IT expert, and his decade-younger wife Joan. The lustre has long dimmed in their marriage, kept together by habit and bickering. Both are playing away, one for love, one for lust.

A sensitive young detective appears, listening to the psychic insights of an Eastern European sex worker to help him solve crimes. (He’s the younger self of James’ most famous policeman, by sleight of chronology.)

Although it’s packed full of current references – Dominic Cucumberpatch as Sherlock, Corrie, the latest ringtones, etc – it is extraordinarily dated, the sort of thing you expect to see performed by the stalwarts of the local am dram soc.

It doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a comedy thriller or a murder mystery. Individually, the performances – by Les Dennis as the irritating Victor, Claire Goose as the brittle Joan, Gray O’Brien as the hunky but banal Don Kirk, Simona Armstrong as Kamila and BOVTS graduate Steven Miller as the policeman, played closely in the “Endeavour” style – were convincing, and the story is well plotted with the proper surprise ending.

It will probably delight Mr James’s myriad fans as it continues its nationwide tour, but the overall effect is of a dated play striving to be contemporary.


Simona Armstrong as Kamila Walcak and Steven Miller and DC Roy Grace. Photo  Alastair Muir.

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