Dead Simple

Feb 3 2015 | By More

✭✭✩✩✩  Overcomplicated

King’s Theatre: Mon 2 – Sat 7 Feb 2014

While there is much in Dead Simple to satisfy fans of the crime genre, on a dramatic level it is far from convincing.

The play is an adaptation of Peter James’s million-selling book, the first in a series featuring Brighton–based detective Roy Grace. Property developer Michael Harrison is preparing for his wedding to Ashley when a stag night prank goes horribly wrong, leaving him buried alive deep in the Sussex countryside.

Jamie Lomas as Michael Harrison

Jamie Lomas as Michael Harrison in a stag-night prank.

The storyline features enough twists and turns to sustain an evening’s entertainment. However, many of these developments are far too easily guessed, with others requiring a considerable leap of faith from the audience. With the book being so popular, no doubt adaptor Shaun McKenna wanted to remain true to the plot. This leads to events feeling shoehorned in to the detriment of the drama.

Although Jamie Lomas puts in considerable effort as Harrison, the character is presented as such a dislikeable individual at first that it is very difficult to care too greatly about his fate.

Detective Superintendent Grace fits very much into the ‘damaged cop who goes his own way’ stereotype so beloved by crime writers, and could easily be the focus of the audience’s sympathies, but this is undermined by a strangely flat performance by Gray O’Brien.

oddly low-key

He is not the only cast member whose efforts are oddly low-key. Tina Hobley’s Ashley seems subdued and is far too quiet at times, while others are hampered by sketchy characterisations that take an obvious back seat to plot. The ensemble feel that a touring show should be able to build up seems to be missing.

Gray O'Brien (Detective Superintendent Grace) and Tina Hobley (Ashley) in Dead Simple

Gray O’Brien (Detective Superintendent Grace) and Tina Hobley (Ashley) in Dead Simple

In a cast sprinkled with familiar faces from long-running TV shows, the outstanding performer is the least experienced – Josh Brown, who plays Davey, a troubled young man who is unwittingly drawn into Harrison’s plight. He provides the sparkle and energy missing in the rest of the production.

Michael Taylor’s set also reflects the production’s drawbacks. A hugely clever split-level affair, its ambition is not matched by its user-friendliness. The attempt to provide several different acting areas takes away from the cast’s efforts rather than enhancing them, while there is also one hugely unfortunate example of large-scale scenery-shifting during a tense moment.

That said, some of the staging is extremely impressive – the representation of the coffin is well done, while there are some very successful uses of sound and light effects, courtesy of Martin Hodgson and Mark Howett respectively.

Director Ian Talbot ensures that the pace does not flag too much. The first half has some definite longueurs, but the second act picks up speed, even if much of what happens defies most rational analysis.

What remains is a largely entertaining if undemanding whodunnit, which passes the time but remains peculiarly uninvolving.

Running time 2 hours 20 mins including interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Monday 2 – Saturday 7 February 2014
Evenings 7.30 pm, Matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30 pm

Tickets from

Click on the image to purchase Dead Simple from Amazon:

Dead Simple on tour:
Mon 2 – Sat 7 February Edinburgh
King’s Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
Mon 9 – Sat 14 February Malvern
01684 892 277 Book online
Mon 16 – 21 February Cambridge
Arts Theatre
01223 503333 Book online
Mon 23 – Sat 28 February Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650 Book online
Mon 2 – Sat 7 March Manchester
Opera House
0844 871 3018 Book online
Mon 9 – Sat 14 March Richmond
0844 871 7651 Book online
Mon 13 – Sat 18 April Nottingham
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
Mon 20 – Sat 25 April Swindon
Wyvern Theatre
01793 524 481 Book online
Tues 28 April – Sat 2 May Southampton
02380 711811 Book online
Tue 5 – Sat 9 May Woking
New Victoria Theatre
0844 871 7645 Book online
Mon 11 – Sat 16 May Bath
Theatre Royal
01225 448844 Book online
Mon 18 – Sat 23 May Glasgow
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7647 Book online
Tues 26 – Sat 30 May Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 11 21 21 Book online
Tues 2 – Sat 6 June Cardiff
New Theatre
029 2087 8889 Book online
Mon 8 – Sat 13 June Milton Keynes
0844 871 7652 Book online
Mon 15 – Sat 20 June Truro
Hall For Cornwall
01872 262466 Book online
Mon 22 – Sat 27 June Southend
Palace Theatre
01702 351135 Book online
Mon 29 June – Sat 4 July Birmingham
Alexandra Theatre
0844 871 3011 Book online
Mon 6 – Sat 11 July Canterbury
Marlowe Theatre
01227 787787 Book online
Mon 13 – Sat 18 July Worthing
Connaught Theatre
01903 206 206 Book online


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