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The Perfect Murder

I hate Valentine’s Day. When Christopher was alive, we never bothered with it – just laughed at the over-priced cards and flowers, and the loved-up couples having excruciating “romantic” dinners for two while the restaurants made excessive profits. But now I’m widowed, I really don’t like the insistent insinuation that smug coupledom is the only acceptable way to be. I find the wall-to-wall pink in the shops extremely irksome. Even the canteen at work on Friday was selling garish pink cup cakes!

However, I think I have found an excellent antidote to Valentines Day, in the shape of The Perfect Murder, a new play by Peter James. I went to the matinĂ©e today at Malvern Theatres and found it rather fun, in a very black way. It starred Les Dennis as Victor, who has been married to Joan to twenty years, and can’t stand her any more. Everything about her gets on his nerves, and she clearly feels the same. They bicker and argue in a very nasty way, getting deep digs in at every opportunity. He’s seeing an East European prostitute on the side (who turns out to be psychic – just one of the totally unbelievable aspects of the plot line), and decides that the only way out of his unhappy marriage is to murder his wife, cash in the life insurance, and run off with the hooker.

In the meantime, his wife is also having an affair and is desperate to start a new life with her lover. Victor’s snoring, humming, and all-round unpleasantness have got too much, and she wants out. So she decides that she’s going to have to kill him. The audience is left wondering which of them is going to kill the other first, and whether/how they’ll get away with it.

The best part was when the errant wife and her lover wrapped the lifeless body of Les Dennis in black bin bags, bound it with duct tape, and dumped it in the freezer. They were pretty thorough with bagging him up, including putting a bin bag over his head. I found myself thinking that it was only the matinĂ©e, they had another performance to do today, and it’s still the beginning of the run, so I did hope that they didn’t actually suffocate him! When they were wrapping duct tape around him to keep the bin bags in place, the actors all corpsed so badly that they couldn’t get their lines out! In fact, it was surprisingly funny throughout for such a black play.

I wasn’t totally convinced by Les Dennis’s acting. He was a bit wooden, especially in the first half, with far too much declaiming his lines to the audience, and not enough subtlety of character. And at one stage I did wonder if the play was going to degenerate into a bastardised cross between Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? and Blithe Spirit. But it picked up pace and interest, and there was a huge, Agatha Christie-esque plot twist right at the end, which I really should have seen coming – after all, I’ve read the Agatha Christie novel that it was clearly inspired by! But I won’t spoil the plot by giving away the ending.

Overall it was an enjoyable afternoon out. The theatre was virtually full, with at least five coach parties from across the West Midlands, and everybody seemed to be having a good time.