Arts Arts Editor Muse

Theatre Review: Looking Good Dead

Cara Lee visits York's Grand Opera House to watch the latest adaptation of Peter James's 'Roy Grace' series

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Image Credit: Ambassadors Theatre Group, York Grand Opera House

Peter James is one of the most prolific and popular crime and thriller writers in the UK’s history.  He has taken the Sunday Times No. 1 award 19 times throughout his career, and over 21 million copies of his books have been sold, in 37 languages.  It’s impressive, to say the least.

You can imagine, then, my excitement to hear that Looking Good Dead, James’s 2006 contribution to his ‘DS Roy Grace’ book series, was being adapted into a stage play by Shaun McKenna, who has previously adapted James’s The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple for stage too.  It feels strange to describe watching a performance about murders and snuff films as “pleasant”, but I doubt an evening spent watching talented actors in York’s Grand Opera House could ever be unenjoyable.

The ‘Roy Grace’ series, spanning an almighty 18 novels, was recently adapted into an ITV drama too, entitled Grace.  Looking Good Dead follows the Bryce family: wife Kellie (played by Laurie Brett, from EastEnders), son Max (Luke Ward-Wilkinson), and husband Tom (Adam Woodyatt, EastEnders’s longest-serving actor).  Tom picks up a memory stick and brings it home, determined to find its owner in order to be a ‘good citizen’.  After plugging it in, him and Max are unwilling witnesses to the vicious murder of Janie (Natalie Boakye), who is later found dead by innocent dogwalkers.

What follows is the family trying to figure out how to act from here, and Max, having seen the reports of Janie’s body being found, states what they’ve seen to the police.  This however has a disastrous outcome, and it becomes a race against time for DS Roy Grace to solve the crime to save the lives of the Bryce family.

The play grapples with family tensions and relationships, loyalties, and the unsociability of teenagers perfectly – surely an acting credit should be given to Max’s bright red noise-cancelling headphones, for the vital part they play.  Looking Good Dead possessed the perfect balance of intrigue and predictability: though at several points I thought I’d cracked it and should myself be the Detective Superintendent, I was, of course, completely wrong each time. One plot twist in particular though was very unexpected – I won’t give away any spoilers, but let’s just say, a balaclava hides a face very well…

Looking Good Dead is being performed at York’s Grand Opera House until 2 April.  Nouse would like to extend their thanks to the Grand Opera House for the invitation to the tour.

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