Theatre Review: Dead Simple – Opera House, Manchester


This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

If the thought of being buried alive fills you with fear, then Dead Simple will scare you to death.

Based on the best-selling novel by Peter James and adapted for stage by Shaun McKenna, Dead Simple is a gripping, chilling thriller about a stag night prank that goes horribly wrong.

The story begins on the eve of Michael Harrison’s (Jamie Lomas) stag night. As payback for a previous stag night, Michael’s friends decide to pull the ultimate wedding prank by burying the groom-to-be alive in a coffin in remote woodlands of Ashdown Forest. But the prank goes horribly wrong when Michael’s friends all die in a car crash before they can return to release him. Alone and staring death in the face, everyone who knows Michael’s whereabouts is dead… except for one person. But will Michael be found in time?

Gripping, thrilling and fiendishly clever, Dead Simple is a classic British crime thriller with plenty of tortuous twists and turns to keep you guessing. The nail-biting script leaves the audience on the edge-of-their-seat as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace tries to solve Michael’s mysterious disappearance before it’s too late, unmasking one villain after another.

Jamie Lomas (EastEnders, Hollyoaks) is superb as Michael Harrison, the smart and wealthy young property developer who falls foul of the stag prank. The award-winning actor does a fantastic job of displaying the character’s despair, terror and sheer desperation in arguably the hardest role to play in the production, the majority of which is spent in a six by four foot box.

Gray O’Brien (Coronation Street, Peak Practice, Casualty) is equally good as the famous Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, calmly navigating through the elaborate plot to eventually unmask the villain with the help of Detective Sergeant Branson (Marc Small) and Medium Zoe Frame (Sarah Baxendale).

Lomas and O’Brien are supported by an all-star cast including Tina Hobley (Holby City, Coronation Street, Harbour Lights) as Michael’s beautiful fiancée Ashley, Rik Makarem (Emmerdale, Torchwood) as Michael’s best friend and business partner, Mark and Michael McKell (Doctors, Emmerdale, Blood Brothers) as Ashley’s uncle Bradley Cunningham.

Disappointingly, the story does tend to lose a bit of credibility towards the end as the plot almost collapses under the weight of the multiple twists, becoming a little daft and over dramatic at times. Despite this, Ian Talbot’s superb direction, Michael Taylor’s big, multi-layered set and the excellent performances by the all-star cast pull it through just long enough to reach the rousing final curtain.

Clever, thrilling and full of twists and turns, Dead Simple is a good old-fashioned thriller that is sure to get the heart pumping.

4 out of 5 stars

Runs until 7 March

Reviewer: Donna Kelly