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Preview: Dead Lies, Queen’s Theatre

The world premiere of Hilary Bonner's sexy political thriller, Dead Lies, hits North Devon this April. We grabbed the best selling crime novelist for all the behind the scenes goss.

Number one best selling crime novelist, Hilary Bonner grew up in Bideford in North Devon

Hi Hilary! We hear Dead Lies has more twists and turns than Michael Gove at an Aberdeen night club! Tell us more…

It’s a traditional English murder mystery, jam-packed with political intrigue, murder, drugs and sex. It’s based around a charismatic politician, called Peter George played by Jeremy Edwards (above), who may – or may not – be dogged by a dark secret. It’s about how far he will go to save his own skin, and how far the people around him will go. It will have you on on the edge of your seat!

Politician hiding secrets – doing what they do best, then?

The original inspiration for the play was the Jeremy Thorpe Affair in the late 1970s, the first British MP to stand trial for murder. At the time, he was a leading light of the liberals, a local MP and hero of North Devon where I grew up.

In the trailer, Peter/Jeremy says ‘politicians partied while you were doing the right thing’. That sounds a leetle more recent.

The play’s debut got delayed by over a year so I’ve re-written some of the political stuff to resonate with what’s been happening recently in Westminster and worldwide. Partygate is there, baby, Partygate is there!

What’s Jeremy Edwards like?

He’s a lovely man, and he’s spot on for the character. It’s incredible watching him in rehearsals – he’s just how I imagined the character to be. This person who thinks of himself as a good man and wants to bring a new type of politics to the table. People believe in him, and he looks set to win the next general election. He’s a total Pied Piper.

Like Tony Blair?

Nothing like Tony Blair! Although Alicia Charles (above, from Coronation Street, Holby City) plays Kate Compton, Peter George’s press secretary and she is to Peter what Alistair Campbell was to Tony Blair and Dominic Cummings to Boris Johnson. I worked with Alastair and he’s a very a loyal man, he absolutely believed in Tony Blair.

Any other notables in the cast?

We’re so blessed with the cast. They’re all brilliant. It’s bit like the slogan of Dead Lies’ political party, People First, ‘we’re the party that does what it says on the tin’! Portia Booroff (Doctors, EastEnders) plays Peter’s devoted wife Jo George, and Claire Dyson, fresh from appearing opposite Liam Neeson in Made In Italy, plays an ex-supermodel Stephanie Jones. Making his UK tour debut is George Verghis in the role of Peter George’s Campaign Manager James Gillen.

Did you choose to have your world premiere here because you’re a Devon gal?

Devon maid, you mean! Yes, it’s a triple whammy, because the play is set in North Devon, the Jeremy Thorpe affair happened there, and also because Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple was my first experience of live theatre.

What was that?

A school trip to see Midsummer Night’s Dream. Back then, it wasn’t even Queen’s Theatre – it was called the Queen’s Hall.

Do you come back to Devon much now?

Yes, we have a home on the Devon/Somerset border so I look out onto the Blackdown Hills.

Any favourite Devon places?

The Blackdown Hills are beautiful. We like to take the dog for walks along the River Culm there and I love Instow Beach in North Devon (above).

There’s a Muddy Award-winning deli, John’s Deli in Instow – great for a coffee and brownie.

Yes, the owner helped me with one of my books!

Before becoming a novelist, you worked on Fleet Street as a showbiz editor. You must know a lot of gossip?

It was a very privileged job. When I worked there in the 80s, it would open a lot of doors, now I think it might close them. I had 18 years of being at the Cannes Film Festivals, and going on film and TV location all over the place. That’s when I met the woman I’m married to.

Amanda Barrie off Corrie… How did you two meet?

I went to interview her when she was playing Alma on Coronation Street.

Wasn’t Amanda in Cinderella at Queen’s Theatre just last Christmas?

Yes, she played the Fairy Godmother. She got talked into it by Lee Waddingham, Red Entertainment’s Associate Producer – the same person who persuaded me to let him produce Dead Lies.

He sounds like quite a persuasive guy.

He is!

Is it true your first book was inspired by a real-life murder which happened next door to you?

Not my first book, that was the Cruelty of Morning. No this came later – When the Dead Cry Out was inspired by my neighbour during the 1980s who was later charged with the murder of his wife and children 27 years earlier.

What a shocker! You’ve written 17 crime novels and 5 non-fiction books – any more up your prolific sleeve?

Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment! I’m writing another play, Dead Secrets. It’s in no way a sequel to Dead Lies, it’s set on the moors on Exmoor and more Sunset Boulevard meets Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. I’m also writing a new novel, with the working title A Dangerous Kind of Friendship, which is out in October 2023.

What’s that about?

Er, a dangerous kind of friendship! I was inspired by giving a talk at Appledore Book Festival in 2021. It’s about old friendships being reunited and the unexpected consequences.

Appledore will be inviting you back for sure, then. And will Amanda be back on stage as Fairy Godmother this Christmas?

No, I think she’s hung up her wings now.

WANT MORE SCURRILOUS SCANDAL FROM HILARY?

Then book your seat for Dead Lies, pronto! It’s on a Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple, from Thurs 14 – Sat 16 April. Get your tickets online, or phone 01271 316523 or call in at the Box Office (Mon-Sat 10am-4pm). See the rest of the UK Tour dates here.

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