Coronation Street actor Stephen Billington enters the dark world of Peter James

Gemma Atkins and Stephen Billington in Not Dead Enough. Picture by Mark Douet
Gemma Atkins and Stephen Billington in Not Dead Enough. Picture by Mark Douet

Coronation Street and Hollyoaks actor Stephen Billington takes his first dip into the world of Peter James for the premiere of the stage adaptation of the Brighton-based author’s Not Dead Enough.

The tagline is “three murders, one suspect, no proof” – a little indication of complexity of the case facing James’ detective Roy Grace in this instance.

“The book is actually quite new to me,” Stephen says. “Crime fiction is not really my go-to reading, but obviously, I have read this book that has been adapted… but talking about it, it is tricky not to give too much away!”

Not Dead Enough is the third novel in the Roy Grace series and now becomes the third play in his critically-acclaimed stage franchise, running at the Theatre Royal Brighton from February 13-18.

On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife, he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed.

At least that’s what he claims. But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace continues to deal with the mysterious disappearance of his own wife, he starts to dig a little deeper into the chilling murder case and it soon becomes clear that love can be a dangerous thing…

To Stephen falls the task of playing Brian.

“He is the suspect. He is the only suspect, and he protests his innocence. He is quite convincing. He says he was in London at the time of the murders, but they keep finding evidence that suggests otherwise, and the police get very confused as to the truth of the situation. A big part of it all is the discovery of what that truth actually is. Certainly, for the scenes in the interview room with the police, I have to think of him as an innocent person.

“But it should really keep the audience guessing. There are some lovely make-you-jump moments, and we have got dead bodies on stage. Half the set is a mortuary…

“(Author) Peter James is very much involved in the production in terms of the tone and so on. He was there for the first day of rehearsals and the read-through. He is definitely involved. I know that they have to run any cuts by him. And we have also had Dave, the former detective that Roy Grace is based on, with us. He is a great resource for us.”

Amid his screen success, the theatre has always been important for Stephen: “I have always tried to do a mix of theatre and film and TV. I love theatre. In terms of joy and enjoyment, it is my favourite medium. You get to perform in front of a live audience, and the audience really gets into this. Film is all done out of sequence. You never film the whole story in order, but on stage, obviously, you are doing the whole story from beginning to end, and you get a complete sense of the through-line.

“The longest I have been away from the theatre has been when I was doing the soaps. I might have been away for a couple of years, but I like to alternate.”

Tickets on www.atgtickets.com/brighton on 0844 871 7650.

The show also features Shane Richie. Shane has played numerous roles on stage and screen and is perhaps best known for his role as Alfie Moon in BBC TV’s EastEnders.

No stranger to theatre, Laura Whitmore also features. Her acting career began at a young age with the Leinster School of Music and Drama in Dublin. In the same year she completed her diploma in performance, she was chosen as the new face of MTV Europe. Laura is best known for her work as a presenter for MTV, The Brits, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Here Now and most recently in 2016’s Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1.

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