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Stage Dragon Review: Dead Lies At The Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 9 Jun, 2022
Updated on: 9 Jun, 2022

By Ferenc Hepp

This week at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Red Entertainment presents a political thriller, Dead Lies, inspired by the Jeremy Thorpe scandal of the 1970s and set against the political backdrop of current-day Westminster.

But Dead Lies, by best-selling crime writer, Hilary Bonner and directed by Joe Harmston. is a very current political English thriller.

Dead Lies at The Yvonne Arnaud.

The action takes place during an election campaign, following Peter George, a politician who promises a new kind of politics beyond sleaze and spin. He is expected to restore trust in a broken political system, but a shocking secret lies in the past of our country’s hero.

The tour was originally set to open on the eve of the Covid pandemic, however, it has been rewritten four times since to keep its current themes.

Jeremy Edwards (Hollyoaks, Coronation Street) plays Peter George from the People First Party and his opening speech which makes references to politicians lying, lockdown parties and the Queen sitting alone at her husband’s funeral certainly evokes recent memories and familiarity to all of us, which results in titters and murmurs of recognition from the audience whatever their political views they may be.

However, the speeches by Edwards feel more like they are read from a script or an autocue, rather than something passionate which comes from the heart of a character who is looking to “change politics as we know it”.

This was reflected by the mood of the audience, which changed to more of a silence following this opening.

We are soon introduced to Marcus Cunningham (Peter Rae) who is looking for help from Peter in order to restore his career as a barrister, but brings a secret with him from their shared past at university which would cause considerable harm to Peter’s chances of success and career.

We don’t see much of Cunningham, but Rae is quite convincing in his portrayal and makes us curious about what this secret could be.

A meeting is organised with Peter, the journalist Alan Parfitt (Andrew McDonald) and an ex-supermodel from the 1980s, Stephanie Jones (Claire Dyson) at the Savoy, where a lot of what allegedly happened is discussed.

McDonald is rather unconvincing as an investigative journalist, and it feels more like we are at the read-through stage of rehearsals rather than middle of a national tour.

Dyson does offer a little more emotion in her portrayal of Jones who is still supposed to be affected by some substance abuse from her modelling days. The pace picks up after the interval, and in the true style of crime writing, the story and the background becomes more complex with a number of unexplained deaths.

It leads to the best scene of the show at the very end between Jo George (Portia Booroff) and Kate Compton (Alicia Charles) where all is revealed and we find out ‘whodunnit’.

Booroff gives the standout performance as Peter’s wife with huge amounts of passion and a journey through the play which is clear to see and which we can empathise with.

However, the true potential of the show is not reached despite her best efforts.

The background set and video design by Sean Cavanagh and Louise Rhoades-Brown are quite interesting and have a modern feel, but the scenery changes need to be done more quickly and efficiently in order to make this complement the show in a more professional way.

Dead Lies runs until Saturday, June 11 and tickets are available at the box office on 01483 440000 or online at the Yvonne Arnaud website here.

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