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Waterfront Festival

Theatre Review: Looking Good Dead

22 March 22 words: Ian C. Douglas

Ian C Douglas went to see Looking Good Dead, starring former EastEnder Adam Woodyatt, at the Theatre Royal

Supposing on the way home tonight, you found a discarded USB stick. What would you do? Would you pick it up, take it home and open it? This is exactly what loving, but harassed, family man Tom Bryce does in Looking Good Dead. Only what Tom sees online catapults his family into a nightmare world of dark web style murder. And it isn’t long before the vile acts on the laptop cross over into Tom’s personal life.   

Looking Good Dead is very much a thriller for the modern day. Pay-for-View torture, S&M killings, kidnapping and blackmail. A vile criminal operation that sickens even the hardest internet pervert. At first glance, casting Eastenders long term player Adam Woodyatt as Tom Bryce may seem off-the-wall. In fact, it’s a masterstroke, as he brings Ian Beale’sboy-next-door, essential niceness to the role. The audience can easily identify with Woodyatt’s Bryce as an affable, well-meaning hubby and dad in way over his head.

The plot is well stirred, and thickens as the heat rises. The Bryces are struggling with their own dilemmas. Tom is desperate to win a commission that might save him from bankruptcy. His wife Kellie is recovering from a drink problem and has secrets of her own. Son Max hates the adult world and wants to retreat into video games and chatrooms. All of these very recognisable problems will be caught up in the mix as the online killers, armed with chloroform, turn up at the back door.

The performances and script kept theatregoers on the edge of their seats until the final curtain

This production is adapted by Shaun Mckenna from the work of Peter James, who happens to be one of the UK’s bestselling crime authors. And like a lot of his books, Looking Good Dead is a Detective Superintendent Roy Grace mystery. Here, the hard-bitten cop is played by Harry Long.

Set design is put to good use. A curtain at the rear of the Bryce’s living room turns transparent, to show the terrifying dungeon where the abducted meet their grisly fate. The police office slides on and off stage whenever we need to see detectives doing their job. You know, calling ballistics, reading autopsy reports or making bad jokes.   

There were brief moments when the mix of humour and thrills did not quite gel. Perhaps they undermined each other a little. And there is no in-depth exploration about the moral contamination and complicity of online pornography, (if pornography is even the right word).   

But on the whole, the performances and script kept theatregoers on the edge of their seats until the final curtain. And rest assured, there are a few twists in the finale that will surprise. So, the next time you come across a lost USB stick think very carefully before you take it home!

Looking Good Dead plays at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal from Monday 21 March to Saturday 26 March 2022

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