The plotting of The Perfect Murder is ingenious and the characters who weave us into their fraught lives are credible within the context. Director Ian Talbot balances comedy and violence (both actual and implied) with the aid of some committed performances and a split-level set designed by Michael Holt which allows the action to flow briskly from one location to another.
Victor Smiley is a middle-aged, middle-management IT specialist for a middle-ranking company. The cement of his childless marriage to Joan is fast crumbling away. She's frustrated in a dead-end job; he visits Kamila, an East European prostitute, on a regular basis. Joan and Victor basically have now nothing in common – except irritation at the other's little habits.
Catalyst for what happens next comes in the shape of handyman Don Kirk. There are some delicious references to film and television genres and to certain soap-operas. We, the audience, are being lulled into thinking we know what's going to happen. Roy Grace, a young detective-constable, also thinks he's on the right track.
Both Claire Goose and Les Dennis give impeccable performances as the Smileys. Steven Miller's Grace is a quiet man at the start of his career who keeps an open mind, including where Simona Armstrong's' Kamila is concerned. Her information (derived from intuition) has been right in the past; why should this time be any different?
Armstrong and Gray O'Brien as Don, Joan's hulk-on-the-side, balance out the central couple as the witches' brew of plot and counter-plot thicken. I'm not going to spoil your enjoyment by revealing what happens, when and to whom – but it's not at all what you might expect. You'll have to find out what happens (and then happens next) for yourself.
The Perfect Murder is at the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 25 January and then tours nationally.