The Perfect Murder (review). Les Dennis shows his dark side

Claire Goose and Les Dennis in The Perfect Murder. Photo by Alastair Muir.Claire Goose and Les Dennis in The Perfect Murder. Photo by Alastair Muir.
Claire Goose and Les Dennis in The Perfect Murder. Photo by Alastair Muir.

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The experts would have us believe that there is such a thing as the perfect murder.

Now, if you’re a crime buff like Victor Smiley (and, I have to admit, me) you can glean quite a few ideas from the TV .

From Agatha and Sherlock to the CSIs and NCIS, there are a myriad of ways to be found to finish someone off. Don’t say you’ve never thought of it?

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Crime writer Peter James (as opposed to that other crime writer PD James) has a hugely successful canon of books featuring top cop Roy Grace.

Steven Miller in The Perfect MurderSteven Miller in The Perfect Murder
Steven Miller in The Perfect Murder

Now his best-seller, The Perfect Murder, featuring the mac-wearing detective as a modern day Columbo, has been brilliantly adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna.

It opened last night at the Wycombe Swan (moving to Milton Keynes Theatre in a few weeks) and received tumultuous applause from fans of the genre.

It was refreshing to watch a thriller with a witty script that didn’t take itself too seriously. The dialogue between bored Victor and his long suffering wife Joan (superb performances from Les Dennis and Claire Goose) absolutely bristled with insults and brickbats.

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The pair bickered like..well..a husband and wife commemorating 20 years of marriage.

I’m not sure why either didn’t think to call in the solicitors and file for divorce – except that would have brought the play to an abrupt halt.

Instead both boiled with murderous intent.

Victor, a diabetic, overweight IT manager for the ninth largest egg box manufacturer in the UK, had slid seamlessly into a midlife crisis.

Instead of making love to his wife he spent his pennies on three sessions a week with a Croatian prostitute.

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He relaxed by baking (very new man) and harboured evil thoughts about doing away with his wife.

Victor’s mantra was WWSD – What would Sherlock do – and he readily admitted that murder was his hobby, watching every crime programme on TV to devise the perfect murder.

He’d already started the ball rolling by taking out life insurance on Joan years earlier and he kept a supply of cyanide in the shed. He’s even worked out an ingenious plan as to how to administer it.

Meanwhile his shelf-stacker wife had picked up the local taxi driver and was intent on a passionate affair – if only they could do away with her dull husband.

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So the stage was set for murder with Det Con Grace (Steven Miller) the plod employed to solve the case – though relying on the help of a psychic prostitute is a big ask (can’t imagine Poirot or Grissom relying on such flimsy evidence).

It’s a thoroughly entertaining show that twists and turns and gives you a laugh along the way.

The only thing that lets it down are the accents of two key characters.

Joan’s sexy new boyfriend Don is played by Gray O’Brien who Corrie fans will remember as the evil Underworld boss Tony Gordon.

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He has, in real life, been gifted with the most gorgeously sexy Scottish lilt yet he is burdened in this by using an English accent which, at times, flees home north of the border.

It’s mockney Cockney at its worse, a Dick Van Dyke accent, complete with atrocious rhyming slang that even tests the patience of his lover who points out that he’s from Tonbridge Wells not the Mile End.

Actress Simona Armstrong’s east European accent as “sex worker” Kamila is similarly all over the place and so thick that it is sometimes impossible to understand what she is saying.

But don’t let that put you off. Dennis and Goose make a splendid double act.

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Like comics before him the normally mild-mannered Les reveals himself to be a great character actor as well as a comedian and game-show host. It bodes well for his upcoming stint on Coronation Street.

Ms Goose plays the femme fatale with conviction though her character falls into a bit of a stereotype in the second act.

The cleverly designed set ( by Michael Holt) combines the Smiley house with Kamila’s seedy brothel and the whole shebang is deftly directed by Ian Talbot.

The Perfect Murder runs at the Swan until Saturday. For tickets call the box office 01494 512000 or visit comes to MK Theatre on March 31 for the week. For tickets call 0844 871 7652 or visit me @LBOanne

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