The absolute stunning Lowry Theatre hosted Peter James’ stage adaptation of ‘Looking Good Dead’ starring Adam Woodyatt and Gaynor Faye as Mr and Mrs Bryce a family caught up in this crime and thriller script.
Peter James is a best-selling author best known for his crime fiction novels and the creator of the much loved Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, he has achieved global book sales of over 21 million copies which have been translated into almost 40 languages.
Peter James was born in 1948 in Brighton, so it seems fitting that his script location is that of his hometown. I must be honest I have not read any of the books in the Roy Grace series or watched his two feature-length film adaptations ‘Grace’ on television which seemingly attracted over seven million viewers, so my review is based only on the play adaptation I witnessed this evening.
In my opinion it can be extremely hard to transfer a novel from page to stage and it be successful as it can often be a disaster trying to portray the essence of the novel as Inner thoughts become external dialogue and plot descriptions become the actors’ subtext. The transfer to stage seems a gamble with many failing in the past but there is equally a chance of it becoming highly acclaimed hit, however, most require several mutations before ending up the final product.
Stage adaptor Shaun McKenna and award-winning playwright, screenwriter and lyricist is the brainchild of the latest adaptation of Peter James’s ‘Looking Good Dead’ where we witness Tom Bryce (Adam Woodyatt) arriving home with a memory stick he found left on a train seat, his aim is to return it to the rightful owner, but after his computer wizard son Max (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) unlocks the memory sticks passcode they observe a live screening of a horrific ‘snuff video’ murder. Mother and wife Kellie Bryce (Gaynor Faye) is not informed of their findings as the family is already under a huge amount of strain due to financially and marital difficulties.
The plot becomes dark as the Bryce’s are threatened with revenge if the lucrative underground murder activities are exposed to the police, exposure by their 17-year-old son Max leads to potentially fatal consequences following the kidnapping of his mother. Roy Grace’s (Harry Long) team are sparked into action, Glen Branson (Leon Stewart) and Bella Moy (Gemma Stroyan) work together to crack the case and find the motivation behind the killings and serve justice to the perpetrators.
The script is lengthy and the scenes fast changing in time and essence, however huge credit must go to the production team as the lighting and staging was outstanding during the transitions and storytelling. Unfortunately, the sound was clunky and disproportionate with the cast not wearing any voice amplifiers and the sound effects overwhelmingly loud throughout. It was extremely hard to hear the cast at times especially if they were not forward facing so some of the dialogue was lost and the sound effects where at a high decibel distracting from the spoken word.
The actual storyline was absorbing and the twist where unexpected making it a substantial crime thriller, but in my opinion, it was the cast that let the whole play down making it feel decidedly amateurish, with their flat or rushed lines the emotions did not match the dialogue. There were high emotional scenes where the acting did not match for example Kelly Bryce (Gaynor Faye) was about to witness her son Max be hurt and her response was flat and emotionless, the same with Tom Bryce (Adam Woodyatt) during many scenes his script had high intense dialogue, but his delivery was equally flat and emotionless poles apart from the emotions that I believe was intended by the script writers. Glenn Branson’s (Leon Stewart) one liners and jokes fell cold and his portrayal was lifeless, another scene was where Bella Moy (Gemma Stroyan) is shot in the leg which was comical as she held a towel to her wound, showing no convincing pain shouting in a monotonous voice “go get the bastard”.
The play has huge potential and could be a fantastic show but in my opinion this performance was let down badly by the cast, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, and I will definitely be purchasing Peter James’s Roy Grace series.
The show continues at the Lowry until Saturday 22nd January 2022 then moves to Glasgow finishing the tour in April 2022 at the Grand Opera House in York. https://thelowry.com/whats-on/peter-james-looking-good-dead/
Reviewer: Katie Leicester
Reviewed: 18th January 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★