Review: Looking Good Dead at The Lowry

I’ve been tussling with this. I’ve been going back and forth. The grown up writer in me (it’s there somewhere) tells me to not be so obvious, cliched and obvious again. The forever child in me behind the blog reminds me that I’m here to document my experiences, thoughts, feelings, passions, obsessions and delectations. Yes delectations.

Please give me a pass for the first blog post of 2022 and let me do away with even a scrap of imagination when it comes to introducing this review. The heart wants what the heart wants.

And so without further ado, Adam Woodyatt, Ian Beale, Eastenders.

I’ve grown up with them (well the latter two), I continue to grow up with them and I also revisit past incarnations weekly on Drama channel in the form of Classic Eastenders. I’m grieving for Ian Beale since he disappeared from ‘the Square’ (present day) following carbonara-gate. Thankfully Sharon’s plot to poison him with my favourite dish was foiled and Ian Beale lived to see another doof doof.

He’s gone, but not forgotten and not without option to return. But until then, I decided that enough was quite enough and if I had to go seek him out, seek him out I would.

And so to opening night and from now on (well probably until the wrap-up paragraph of this post as I do love a bit of book-ending), I shall speak only of Adam Woodyatt as Tom Bryce, the lead character in Looking Good Dead, the play of the book by Peter James, adapted for stage by Shaun McKenna.

Fans of the popular books will be familiar with Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a much loved character committed to solving crime, and Looking Good Dead follows the stage success of other adaptations of The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple.

Back to Looking Good Dead, Tom Bryce (Woodyatt) family man, business man, every man returns home brandishing a USB stick left behind by a stranger on a train (not that one…). Said stranger has been irritating him all journey with his loud conversations and protestations (hi daily tram commute) and Tom can’t resist grabbing the discarded stick to check out at home, just in case ‘it’s important’.

It’s certainly…well, not sure important’s strictly the word.

In fact metaphorical curtain up, and the opening scene of the play gives us a glimpse of the coming attraction, a preview of what’s to come as we’re met with a woman about to get more than she bargained for when she suddenly finds herself in chains with a knife to her throat and a camera (and ring light, naturally) in her face.

As with all the best bondage and murder mysteries, we’re then immediately plunged into a scene of domestic bliss at the Bryce home. Well no, not bliss. As wife and mother Kellie (Gaynor Faye) merrily vacuums around the designer sofa sipping from her water bottle, we soon learn that she’s not hydrating with H2O. And that show-home isn’t all it seems and could soon be history, as the family flounder in debt to the tune of £150k.

And as Tom and teenage son Max (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) later settle on the sofa, son cracking the password to the UBS stick with only the casual panache that a techy teen can carry off, they find themselves watching the full feature film. And reader? We’re plunged straight into snuff-film territory. Yes, snuff in Salford on a Tuesday night.

With barely time to strap ourselves in for a bumpy night, we’re taken on a twisted tale of family ties, sordid streaming and, well, light-hearted murder and s&m bestiality bantz (flogging a dead horse got a titter from me) from the guys ‘back at the station’, including our hero of the piece, Roy Grace (Harry Long).

This is no sleepy, cookie-cutter whodunnit. But it has enough of an injection of farce, a fair balance of the tongue in cheek, with a healthy dose of darkness and dastardly deeds to keep you engaged right up until the end.

And with sleek transitioning between sets and scenes, all it really missed was the doof doofs.

Looking Good Dead is on at the Lowry until 22 January 2022.

For full details and to book tickets, visit https://thelowry.com/whats-on/peter-james-looking-good-dead/

Pic credits – the author (1-3) and Alastair Muir

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