Looking Good Dead: Adam Woodyatt on the Peter James thriller heading to Sheffield

Adapted by critically acclaimed writer Shaun McKenna, the world premiere stage production of Peter James’ novel Looking Good Dead heads to the Lyceum this month.

The story follows Tom Bryce (Adam Woodyatt) who inadvertently becomes a witness to a vicious murder. Reporting the crime to the police has disastrous consequences, placing him and his family in grave danger…

We caught up with the award-winning actor and Eastenders icon to hear more about this thrilling piece of theatre, tipped to have audiences on the edges of their seats all the way through.

You’re a national treasure as Ian Beale, what is it that you love about being part of a television icon such as EastEnders?
That is a very nice thing to say, but I have never seen myself as a legendary character or anything like that. I have always seen myself as just someone doing a job. It is how everyone else has perceived the character that has given Ian that kind of status. I’ve just been a guy going to work for 36 years and I have been lucky that my work is at a TV studio!

Adam Woodyatt stars at Tom Bryce, an inadvertent witness to a vicious murder.

On the flipside of that, what appeals to you about theatre, and specifically playing the lead in the world premiere of Peter James’ Looking Good Dead?
What has really appealed to me about being part of Looking Good Dead is getting that live reaction. EastEnders has had massive responses when we have done live episodes. Especially in 2015 for me. I loved it. I loved that feeling of immediacy and knowing that what happens in this moment is what the audience will see there and then. I love that buzz. I’ve done pantomimes over the years which are always a favourite thing for me to do, so the prospect of being able to go out and do a theatre tour is really exciting. I spoke to the producers a couple of years ago about being part of something and I’m so glad that Looking Good Dead has worked out timing-wise. I just can’t wait to have a live audience and I am really looking forward to it.

Have you read the novel on which the play is based?
I have read Looking Good Dead and really enjoyed it. Like the previous plays have done, I’m hoping that the show will appeal to both fans of Peter James’ novels and many more people, who perhaps, like me, are not massive readers. When I read the book, I was kept guessing the entire time, and I hope we can bring that excitement to audiences in the theatre.

“When I read the book, I was kept guessing the entire time, and I hope we can bring that excitement to audiences in the theatre.”

Peter has sold millions of books, which have been Number One on the Bestseller List 17 times, but why do you think the adaptation of his books to stage has been so successful?
The adaptations are always faithful to the book, but with a twist or two a subtle change so that even someone who knows the book incredibly well isn’t one hundred percent certain what is going to happen on stage, which adds a brilliant element of surprise and anticipation. I think there’s a lot to look forward to in Looking Good Dead.

It’s been a while since you performed a drama on stage, but you started your career in theatre – tell us a little about that.
It’s definitely more than just a few years since I’ve done a drama on stage. I started my career in Oliver! in the West End in the 1980s. So, the first thing I did was a musical where I played one of the kids and I also got to play a posh boy – just because I fitted the costume! I was eleven or twelve at the time. The first straight play I did was On The Razzle at the National Theatre with a brief tour in 1981 I think. So it’s been a while!

Any nerves?
At the moment it’s just excitement but maybe ask me again right before I go on stage, and I will probably be feeling some fear!

The world premiere stage production opens at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, on Mon 23 September. 

People have really missed going to their local theatre. How important do you think it will it be for audiences to be able to see a live show again in 2021?
I’ve missed going to the theatre as well. I think theatre is important on so many levels. Not only is it a place to entertain and share stories with audiences, it’s also people’s jobs and livelihoods. The entertainment industry is one of the biggest industries in the country, in all its various guises, theatre being one element of it. It is not just the people on the stage it is everyone working behind the scenes, building the sets and costumes, the people designing and printing the programmes, the food and drinks businesses around the theatre. One theatre can spark so many other industries around it. It is vital that theatre comes back. Theatre is a place that people can hopefully escape to. I remember the first time I went to the theatre; I saw Frankie Howard in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Palladium and that was what sparked my love of pantomime and my love of acting and theatre came from that.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as an actor?
Speak clearly and mind the furniture!

Looking Good Dead is at the Lyceum Theatre 23–28 August . Tickets and more info available from sheffieldtheatres.co.uk


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