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REVIEW: Looking Good Dead – York Grand Opera House

Peter James’ Looking Good Dead provides drama, humour and all round entertainment in adaptation by Shaun McKenna.

Having never read a Peter James novel, but knowing a lot about the style he prefers, Looking Good Dead as a concept should have been one that worked seamlessly on stage. A thriller for the modern day, with pay-per-view streaming the heart of the crime, digital blackmail and S&M, Looking Good Dead tells a story we hear about when it comes to the dark web, and it delivers its tale with some style here in York.

Looking back over the performance and reflecting, there have been fewer stories portrayed on stage that have left me gasping and “not seeing” the twists that were on their way. The first act leaves a few questions to be answered and whilst a slow moving first hour, there’s enough intrigue there for you to want to come back and find out what’s happening. The Bryce Family undergo and showcase a typical family of the 21st Century, with problems much deeper than those we’re happy to share; bankruptcy, alcohol abuse, video game and device addiction – all of which are now common practice – meaning from minute one, it’s relatable to many onward looking eyes in the audience.

The highlights of the production are without doubt the police officers – with great staging and adaptation from McKenna that subverts their usual role, with them providing the comedy throughout, you look forward to them coming back onto the stage. The most entertaining trio by far, without them, the whole production may have felt flat in honesty as the rest of the acting was suspect at best.

As the plot thickens, and you learn more about the turmoils of the Bryce Family, it becomes very clear this isn’t a tale to take at initial face value. The final 20 minutes provide twist after twist (almost too many but I imagine this is set over numerous chapters in James’ novel) leaving you really on the edge of your seat thinking what might happen next. Is it let down by the final scenes? Quite possibly, but overall Looking Good Dead provides a nice night out, with a thriller you’ll be thinking about for a few days, and with little really outstanding performances, you’re quite satisfied with what you’ve seen.

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