Charles Ross’ Dead Ringer is an undemanding comedy thriller set in the study at No 10 Downing Street on the eve of a general election, sometime in the 1990s. Charismatic Prime Minister Randolph Bolton drops dead, seemingly from a heart-attack, propelling his cabinet colleagues into a spin and an unlikely web of intrigue. Without the PM, they are sure to lose the election, and be thrown out of office, so of course they decide to hide the body and delay the minister’s death for a ‘few days’.
To help with the deception, out of work actor Gerry Jackson, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the deceased, is hired to take on the role of his life, and convince the country and more importantly Bolton’s wife, that he is the Prime Minister, just long enough to scrape through at the polls. All seems to be going well until it becomes apparent that the PM had made enemies in his political and personal life, and that his death was far from natural. Those in his inner-circle are not all that they seem either. Jackson becomes worried for his own safety, and fears he may end up a ‘dead ringer’.
Although not ground-breaking, and lacking the bite of political satire, Dead Ringer successfully blends witty one-liners with elements of farce, intrigue and classic whodunit, resulting in a pleasing yarn, and satisfying dénouement.
Ian Dickens’ production is blessed with a strong cast of experienced and accomplished actors, making the most of the material to deliver an entertaining yarn. David Callister, in the dual-role of Bolton and Jackson, shines, with strong support from Tony Adams, as deputy PM Ray Turnball, Belinda Carroll as arts minister Frances Cowdray, Keith Drinkell (Home Secretary Dick Marr) and Joanna Heywood (Bolton’s wife, Eva). Josh Hall (as the PM’s ‘very’ personal assistant), and Chris Ellison (Colonel Hardacre) also make the best of their rather one-dimensional characters.
The set, designed by Alan Miller Bunford, is surprisingly detailed for a touring production and sets the scene well. Sound and lighting by Steve Chambers is, on the whole, effective – although a less convincing gunshot would be difficult to imagine – and Andrew Lynford’s direction keeps things moving nicely.
An entertaining, traditional, thriller with a superb cast makes it worth seeing.