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Peter James Interview

Approved by ATG's PR & Communications Officer, David Bradbury

Peter James’ best-selling novella The Perfect Murder is being adapted for the stage. Starring Les Dennis and Claire Goose, the show, directed by Olivier Award winner Ian Talbot, will be at Richmond Theatre from Tue 22 – Sat 26 Apr.

What inspired you to write The Perfect Murder?

I’ve always been interested in the notion of the perfect murder. We’re all capable of killing. What most of us are not capable of doing is living with our conscience after this has happened. There are around 600 homicides every year in England and the police reckon that there’s at least 600 more that they don’t know about- 600 perfect murders.  

There’s also a classic scenario that you get where someone in a married couple decides that they’ve fallen in love with someone else and it’s easier to kill their partner than it is to deal with the heartache and expense of a divorce. After a while, they can’t live with it and they have to tell someone. The dangerous people are those who can live with their consciences. I thought it would be wonderful to have a couple where the husband has decided to kill his wife and he’s able to live with it and the wife has the same plan…

Shaun McKenna (Ladies in Lavender, The Lord of The Rings musical) has adapted The Perfect Murder for the stage- did you work closely with him during this process?

We had a couple of long brainstorming lunches, kicking ideas around, and then he just went and nailed probably 95% of it in the first draft. Shaun has done a beautiful adaptation. I’ve had three books made into movies in the past and I’ve hated them with a passion. When I got Shaun’s script I was thinking…yeah, I know what’s going to happen.  Then I read it and I was mesmerised. I thought…wow. He’s actually made it better!

So the spirit of the novella is still there?      

It’s completely there. His genius with it is has been to turn it from a novella into a really visually exciting stage play that’s got some great laughs in it but also some really scary moments.

What's it like to transition from telling the story on the page to telling the story on the stage?        

In a novel you can describe someone’s thoughts. In the theatre, you have to show them. Claire Goose said ‘you must feel like God’ because they were all in my head and now they’re in front of me. It was a good analogy, not least because Les Dennis was pretty much how I’d pictured Victor…but telling a story is still telling a story.

What should the audience expect when they see The Perfect Murder?

Shaun’s made it a great entertainment. There’s a lot of humour in it. If you’ve ever had a go at your husband or your wife, you’re going to recognise elements of yourself in that. There’s a brilliantly satisfying twist at the end that’s different to the book… I’m so looking forward to being there on Dartford on the 8th, watching the curtain rise.  The theatre’s always been a dream of mine: I grew up in Brighton where my parents had regular weekly seats at the Theatre Royal. I used to sit there dreaming that one day one day I would write a play, put it on and see it. It’ll be an incredibly nerve wracking, but incredibly proud moment for me. Out of everything that I’ve done, this is the most exciting moment for me.