Crime fiction has always been a genre of intrigue. On glancing over the carefully arranged display of ‘bestsellers’ at the local bookshop, you’d be hard pushed not to catch sight of one or two books of the ‘noir’ variety. There’s a compelling element to its darkness – a touch of the taboo, the dizzying spell of de-familiarisation in a heightened, stylised world -which keeps a loyal audience. The genre has in fact sprung to such heights in the past few decades that our television screens have become saturated with the dark and moody scenes of the detective drama. But despite its ubiquitousness, it’s never often considered to be a genre regularly translated to the stage.
Peter James’ bestselling crime novel Dead Simple, however, has been transformed just so, with the show heading to the Norwich Theatre Royal next Tuesday. The highly claustrophobic and suspenseful drama was adapted by James himself, who has overseen its translation to the stage, working alongside director and Olivier Award winner Ian Talbot. Following the success his debut theatre production in January 2014, which consisted of his adaptation of The Perfect Murder, James resolved to embark on a new journey with his highly acclaimed Detective, Superintendent Roy Grace.
James has spoken of the challenge of bringing Dead Simple to the stage due to the confined spaces it requires. The play itself follows the aftermath of a stag night gone wrong, with the prospective groom, Michael Harrison, buried alive. The show depicts the unraveling of this mystery, as an investigation gets under-way, led by the innovative mind of Detective Grace. As the plot progresses, we delve further into the chaos of this sinister world, which gradually disorientates ones sense of place. Jamie Lomas, who will be playing the role of Michael Harrison, says “there are so many twists and turns. When I was first reading through the script, I didn’t see any of it coming. It draws you in, the suspense is thick in the air. I think this is why it works really well as a stage adaptation. It destabilises the audience, you’re always off-guard.
“The stage design has been sketched out to prolong this effect. You certainly feel a sense of the claustrophobia. It’s what made the character of Harrison so appealing to play – it’s a challenge to put forward a performance within such a confined space”
A stage drama dealing with the intense psychological complexity of James’ fiction requires a great deal of commitment from the actors in order to carry the suspense. “When we first sat down as a group to read through the script, the suspense ran through all of us. I wasn’t sure how well it would come across when we first sat down, but the script is so full of this energy and power that it came pretty naturally as soon as we began to run through our lines together.”
The production will arrive at the Norwich Theatre Royal next Tuesday 20th. For more information, see: www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk/deadsimple