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Not Dead Enough. Milton Keynes Theatre.

If the title doesn’t grab you, perhaps the murderer will! This fantastic play comes to Milton Keynes Theatre for its world premiere season of Peter James’ book, Not Dead Enough.

It opens to a murder. And it’s a bit dark and involves strangulation and a second world war gas mask.

We are introduced to Cleo Morey who is a technician in a Mortuary in Brighton. Her new assistant, Sophie and Cleo are rather busy with all the dead bodies. Cleo is currently dating DS Roy Grace, but there is a third person in this relationship, his missing wife of 10 years. Can Roy commit to Cleo when he doesn’t know if Sandy is dead or alive?

Roy works closely with Glenn Branson and between them there are a few moments of humour. In fact, there is more humour in this psychological thriller than you would expect. When Roy is given this murder, he starts to look at the husband as he has no alibi. Brian Bishop is devastated to find out his wife has been murdered and is offered an alibi from an unlikely source. There isn’t much more that can be said about the story as it has many twists and turns as we learn more about each character.

DS George is played by Shane Richie who is best known as Alfie Moon in EastEnders, but is totally believable as Roy George. Shane gives real depth and warmth to the character. You can tell he is torn between his missing wife and Cleo, and that he is very committed to the job. Cleo is played by Laura Whitmore and plays Cleo with a clear focus on her job which she values and her love life which she wants to move forward with. Laura is immensely likeable in the role and you find yourself wanting Cleo to succeed. She has a range of emotions and yet can still come across as professional in her work.

Brian Bishop is the devastated husband and is played by Stephen Billington. He delivers Brian as a very nice upstanding citizen and is wealthy, fit and supposedly happily married. Stephen reminded me of Jeremy Irons at times, which is a great analogy as both can be charming and yet have an underlying side that feels uneasy. Stephen delivers this perfectly.

Michael Quartey is Glenn Branson, the defective that is Lewis to Grace’s Morse. Michael gives a great portrayal of Glenn, getting some of the best comic lines too. Glenn is a huge support to Roy and Michael delivers the role with integrity.

The set is cleverly designed with the top half of the stage as the mortuary and the bottom half as the police station. It even uses sounds such as the sea to get us to imagine jogging along the beach. An excellent use of the whole stage and clever lighting to inform what part of the set to focus on.

This is a really up front and personal psychological thriller and if you love shows like Silent Witness and Frost this is the play for you.

Not Dead Enough is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 4 February 2017.

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