Looking Good Dead – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre

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By Sandra Callard, September 2021

I have read many of the books of Peter James featuring his detective, Roy Grace, and they are without exception superbly written and plotted. But this new production at Leeds Grand, Looking Good Dead, unfortunately bears very little resemblance to James’ books. In fact, this play comes from a very different perspective indeed.

An apparently normal family become entrenched, through the son’s computer, in a murderous regime which allows them to see, in detail, actual murders. Detective Grace is there, played with panache by Harry Long, and the lovely Gaynor Faye holds the stage as she battles with the murderous weirdos in order to save her son and eventually herself. It was interesting to see ex-Eastenders actor, Adam Woodyatt, playing the middleaged husband with a money problem, and doing it remarkably well

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“Dastardly plans”

What begins as a family in a perfectly normal home of mum, dad and son, careers into an unbelievable set of circumstances that test the audience’s belief to the core. Having said that, the technical procedures are clever and unexpected, and while some of the audience there (including me) must have been baffled at the unfolding drama, it does grab the attention, mainly as you try and sort out exactly what is going on. The outlandish costumes of some of the villainous characters are more laughable than threatening, but do catch the eye.

Looking Good Dead is actually lighthearted nonsense, which is still remarkably enjoyable, and gratifyingly tongue in cheek. I was surprised, however, that there were not many outbursts of laughter as the gloriously inane murderers plotted and executed their dastardly plans with superb stealth and joy. Was I the only one in the theatre to think it was a spoof? Surely the audience, depleted though it was, did not buy the outlandish plot, but their avid attention would seem to say that they did.

However, perhaps they were numbed into silent wonder as Mrs Kellie Bryce (Gaynor Faye) was whisked away and appeared on a sort of screen, apparently shackled to an elaborate metal device that looked remarkably like a swing, and was chastised by a large and scarily dressed man in black mask and leggings. Terrifying indeed!

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I slowly stopped myself trying to see the book Peter James had written and gave myself up to accepting the show for what it was, a decent foray into crime and police work containing a cast of hard working actors who gave their wholehearted acceptance to a shaky plot – and I felt all the better for doing it.

The applause was thorough and kind, particularly as the outcome and sudden denouement was as surprising as it was bizarre and the whole thing was wrapped up with a sudden and unexpected tour-de-force that seemed entirely fitting to this strange production. I left the theatre unsure of what my reaction should be, but with an admiration for the cast who had battled through an unusual production with genuine flare and determination to entertain.


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