A Perfect Murder At New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: First production of best-selling crime thriller

This is an overlong, muddle of a production that tries to be a murder mystery, sex romp, psychological thriller, and kitchen sink drama while being funny. It doesn’t really work and at just over two hours, it needs some editing.

Victor Smiley (Robert Daws) wants to run away with sex worker Kamila (Simona Armstrong), so to get rid of his wife he’s planning the perfect murder. The wife is Joan (Dawn Steele, pictured right), who aware that the marriage is falling apart has already sorted an alternative in the shape of Don, (Gray O’Brien). Don might be good in the sack, but his tendency to speak in faux Cockney rhyming slang gets tiresome.  It was a good joke at first but, like all good jokes, it loses something with relentless repetition.

And it’s not just Don’s vocabulary that suffers from overkill. Victor and Joan are beginning to hate each other, a point that only needed to be made once, but their rows, which get increasingly more bitter and spiteful, go on and on. Without adding anything, they take up far too much of the first act and slow the action, which left me wondering when something was actually going to happen.

The final character in the mix is the young, conscientious Detective Constable Roy Grace (Thomas Howes), the nicest one of the bunch. He comes in to investigate an unrelated missing persons case, but as time goes on he gets embroiled in another missing persons case much close to home.

The Perfect Murder is based on a book by Peter James, one of the UK’s most prolific and successful crime writers. One of his books even knocked 50 Shades of Grey off the top of the number one paperback fiction slot in 2012.  This play’s got a good pedigree but that’s not immediately obvious, bogged down as it is in a somewhat clumsy adaptation.

However, underneath all this, there’s an intriguing storyline where occasional flashes of James’ devious skills are allowed to shine through, but not until the second act. This is where the pace picks up and clever and genuinely funny plot twists come thick and fast, leading to much confusion and a very surprising end.

Whoever dunnit, it was the perfect murder.

Review by Penny Flood

A Perfect Murder runs at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday (November 1)

October 29, 2014