Grace in a state

Date published: 16 April 2014

The Perfect Murder, Opera House, Manchester, to Saturday
Of course if you’re a Les Dennis fan, you might find the prospect of seeing his stage wife (Claire Goose) and her boyfriend (Gray O’Brien) trussing his lifeless body in bin bags a rather jolly prospect; good old Les, what a lark.

Of course if you are not a Dennis fan, you might find the prospect of seeing him covered in black plastic tied up with duct tape equally pleasing, especially since the result makes him look like a large black lobster with go-faster stripes.

Peter James’s first short story in the Inspector Grace series — Grace (Steven Miller) is still a detective constable — is, in Shaun McKenna’s stage adaptation, a rather wild mix of comedy and thriller, with a psychic hooker (Simona Armstrong, in probably the best performance of the night), for good measure.

It’s fair to say the show isn’t going to win any awards for drama, comedy or acting. Of the five of them, only Armstrong’s east European prostitute Kamila — Victor’s lover — is even passably realistic (but then, she is Romanian). For the rest it is simply a case of speaking up, hitting the mark and dying on cue.

Nor is the show going to win prizes for its storyline — an implausible plot that has both husband and wife scheming to do away with the other, with the wife, Joan, getting her blow in first, too prematurely for success. This is especially true when we find husband Victor has been plotting her death for years, has unexpected help, and isn’t about to let a little thing like being killed first get in the way.

That Grace is still a bit green doesn’t hurt either.

The psychic hooker? Victor visits her three times a week and when she isn’t with him she passes-on psychic info on local crimes to young Mr Grace. Just go with it, okay?

Truth is, if you check for holes in any part of this show (save perhaps the complicated three-way, multi-level set), you will find gaps big enough to drive a hearse through.

So let it wash over you; accept the discussion on Benedict Cumberbatch’s bum making him the ideal Holmes, and the occasional references to Corrie for the buff O’Brien’s sake, or the occasional wildly (and deliberately) inappropriate humour, and maybe you will leave the theatre plotting mayhem and murder of your own, though hopefully not...