PETER JAMES is the perfect master of the post-Thatcherite misanthropic murder mystery.
The Perfect Murder | Rating: *** | King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
In his world of nasty, brutish and abruptly shortened lives, everyone is greedy, grasping and on the take - except his ideal English hero of a police detective, Roy Grace, whose only weakness is his penchant for consulting clairvoyants.
The real saving grace of this latest show from the James stable, though, lies in its inky black humour, a suburban noir that perfectly matches the talents of the show’s twin stars, EastEnders favourites Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace. Richie plays Victor Smiley, an ordinary middle-ranking IT manager with a wife he hates, and an East European prostitute on the side. Wallace is his wife Joan, who - unbeknown to Victor - is nursing a homicidal rage against her husband fully as violent as his plans for her, while pursuing a red-hot affair with a fit young taxi driver called Don.
The scene is therefore set - quite literally, in Michael Holt’s two-storey stage design - for a daft but enjoyable domestic horror show, full of clashing murder plans and pseudo-supernatural shocks. If the show has a point, it has to do with its cleverly-engineered collision between the utterly ordinary (the suburban-house, the tired, bickering marriage) and the potential murderer in us all. And with strong support from Simona Armstrong as Kamila the call-girl, Richie and Wallace give us a pair of funny, well-judged performances, in which both blend the monstrous and the mediocre so deftly that when one of them finally emerges as the winner, it seems like an unnatural break in a story that should go on for ever - just like EastEnders itself.
• Until 5 March