For crime buffs, this is a simple mystery. The Perfect Murder introduces Les Dennis and Claire Goose as Victor and Joan Smiley. Their marriage is not a happy one and from the start it is clear Victor has murder in mind. Both are having an affair. Victor with an Eastern European prostitute, Kamila Walcak (Simona Armstrong), and Joan with cockney handyman Don Kirk (Gray O'Brien).
There are only four potential victims to place bets on and for the first act you are waiting for what is readily predictable. There is no suspense. Instead there are long scenes of domestic drama. The saving grace is Dennis gleefully scheming his wife's death, together with all manner of references to crime TV series and books ("Benedict Cucumber-batch").
It's only during the second act that the play perks up, as it shows the aftermath of the murder from the killer's point of view. The actors pick up their game and the play actually turns into a comedy with a touch of the supernatural. That said, since the audience knows who the killer is, the suspense is again lacking, and you are simply waiting for the comeuppance.
A comeuppance that is worth the wait, even though some of the plausibility is questionable. So despite a sluggish first act, the play is worth seeing for that, together with Dennis and the wacky second half. A good night out, though nothing exceptional for murder mystery lovers.
- David Jobson