Live On Stage Stage

Looking Good Dead

Looking Good Dead
26 March 2022
Theatre Royal
2.0 out of 5.0 stars

When I went on a little weekend break to Nottingham, the local theatre was booking for Looking Good Dead, a new stage adaptation of the successful crime thriller by Peter James, featuring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace.
I’ve never read any Peter James books, nor have I watched the ITV series, so I came into this experience pretty fresh and without expectations. As two of the main actors were advertised as being EastEnders icons, I did expect it to be on the hammier side, but I was not prepared for what transpired on stage this evening…

The stage design is absolutely stunning, with a cellar/dungeon location in the background that quickly changes into a very ordinary looking family living room / kitchen setting, while the police station set slides out from the side. These three locations are the only ones we see throughout the performance and are integrated extremely well through the cellar becoming completely hidden in the background while any other set is used. I was very impressed with how well this integration was done, this was easily my favourite part of the entire show.

The play starts out in the cellar location, with a young woman being murdered in front of a digital camera, and while this scene is extremely tame for an on-stage murder (there’s no stage blood, no special effects make-up, very obviously faked violence) it’s a good start for a thriller! From here on out, everything went down-hill fast.

The entire show seemed more like a slap-stick comedy than a thriller. Suspense completely absent due to us seeing the perpetrators quite early on, acting hammed up to the nth degree, no connections on stage seeming genuine, reactions and conversations so stale and obviously scripted, mystery and seriousness having left the building long before the first actor took the stage.

The plot itself felt a lot like a boomer trying to write a modern online-mystery for the young’uns without ever having heard of the dark web or crypto, so focussing the technical marvels around a USB stick “installing” a website link that leads to a scandalous site where people get murdered live on screen, paid for through monthly subscriptions. Very few of the tech details mentioned make any kind of sense and were so far off the mark that I seriously struggled trying not to chuckle too loudly at times. For example, there’s a scene where the bad guy gives their kidnapped victim their phone to tease them, but then assures them they can’t do anything with it as they took the SIM card out, even taunting their victim to try calling 999 (which still works without a SIM card in real life, but not here!) but lo and behold, the short time this SIM-less phone was on is enough for another character to use find my iphone to trace the victim’s location. Later he explains this by saying there must have been a BT hotspot nearby that the phone automatically connected to… which still doesn’t explain why the 999 call didn’t work, but okay. Clearly whoever wrote this has a very loose grasp on technology and thought they were being clever?

And while we’re at it, not only was the acting hammy, the plot flat and unbelievable, the big villain so easy to spot and incredibly stereotyped to almost be offensive, the whole thing even ends with a “and I would have gotten away with it, too”-esque finale that puts it firmly into slap stick scooby doo territory, despite featuring detailed descriptions of two brutal murders.

I could go on, but I think I’ll end this review here, it’s pretty plain that I did not enjoy, nor would recommend, this show. Still, it made me quietly laugh to myself for a good hour, and then triggered a long phone call with a friend about all the incredibly bad technology-based plot lines we’d seen on stage over the years. So there’s at least that!

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