There are lesbians in Agatha Christie shows on TV, a randy taxi driver fond of cockney rhyming slang is laying out the patio, and a Croatian prostitute with psychic tendencies is feeling strange vibrations. All of which barely scratches the surface in terms of how far you can go with a murder mystery yarn in Shaun McKenna's stage version of Peter James' best-selling novella, published in 2010.
Here we find IT consultant and classic pulp fiction obsessive Victor Smiley plotting a very bitter end for his other half, Joan, with hooker Kamila. Joan, meanwhile, has plans of her own with buff cabbie Don. Only when James' rookie detective Roy Grace lands on Kamila's doorstep to investigate another case do things start to come undone.
James and McKenna may aspire in part for a latter-day take on Joe Orton's black comedy, Loot, by way of Noel Coward's more spectrally inclined Blithe Spirit in Ian Talbot's production, revived and recast here since its last outing in these parts in 2014. In truth its heightened sense of its own ridiculousness falls somewhere between a suburban sit-com and a 1970s sex comedy. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and there are shades here of what the League of Gentlemen might do with such a knowingly fun-loving mish-mash of genres.
Casting East Enders double act Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace as the Smileys adds to the fun in a piece of double-barrelled populism. Richie's portrayal of Victor as a worm that turns is a particularly grisly study of human impotence turned nasty in a crowd-pleasing tale of the not entirely unexpected that just about gets away with it.
The Herald, March 2nd 2016