Tina Hobley in Dead Simple
Tina Hobley in Dead Simple

Novelist Peter James's second dalliance with theatre comes in the form of an adaptation of his (ironically) over-complicated dramatic novel Dead Simple.

Cast with TV favourites, the convoluted storyline follows the accidental burial of Michael Harrison (Jamie Lomas) on his stag night.

The prank, of course, goes horribly wrong and brings best friend Mark (Rik Makarem) and fiancée Ashley (Tina Hobley) into a whirlwind of coincidences that spiral into an improbable story of love and betrayal with endless plot twists and turns.

James has a vivid imagination that allows his many characters to each have their 'moment' amid the tale. But Shaun McKenna's adaptation, along with Ian Talbot's direction, dramatise scenes to a parodical degree more often seen in low budget Hollywood movies.

Michael Taylor's design is the saviour of the night with his inventive departmental set divided into four boxes that are thoughtfully used to transition between scenes.

But with its pre-recorded sound effects, OTT lighting sequences and an endless number of blackouts, Dead Simple feels more like a cheap TV pilot than a piece of theatre. It's hard not to conclude that James's terrific technique as a crime writer is better suited to the screen than the stage.

Dead Simple tours to Edinburgh, Malvern, Brighton, Manchester, Richmond, Nottingham, Swindon, Southampton, Woking, Bath, Glasgow, Newcastle, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Truro, Southend, Birmingham, Canterbury and Worthing.