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Wish You Were Dead at Theatre Royal Brighton

Wish You Were Dead is the sixth of Peter James’ crime novels to be adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna, each featuring the enigmatic Superintendent Grace and set in and around Brighton: except that this new play is actually set in a run-down French chateau where Grace, who is now married to forensic pathologist Cleo, decides to honeymoon.

Wish You Were Dead.
Wish You Were Dead.

In fact, Michael Holt’s set design showing the dominating interior of the chateau is perhaps the most impressive thing about this production. It dwarfs the stage, but is very practical, giving several acting areas all of which are immediately clear and aid the audience in following the, at times, predictable plot. Particularly impressive is the attic room inventively painted and lit behind a gauze as well as the imaginative lighting (Jason Taylor) used for each ‘room’. Unfortunately, the bright exterior lighting used for the main entrance doors downstage left is so positioned that it reflects in the glass, dazzling the audience on that side of the auditorium every time they are left open – which is a great deal!

The director has decided to stage the play as a modern melodrama with frequent use of music (Max Pappenheim), Berlioz’s Dies Irae especially, to enhance the mood at times of crisis, the play moving forward at breakneck speed for much of the time, often meaning that the most dramatic scenes feel underwhelming as they have not been given time to build.

George Rainsford is Superintendent Grace, looking very much like a young John Simm in the television equivalent, at present being shown every Sunday evening on ITV 1, but perhaps lacking the stillness and gravitas the role needs. However, he is very athletic and has the responsibility of driving the play relentlessly to its denouement, which he does effectively and with great energy.

The ‘villain’ of the piece, Curtis, an ageing crime boss who is out to get Grace, is enthusiastically played as a much larger-than-life character with no redeeming features by Clive Mantle. He obviously enjoys this role, even though it is stereotypically written, and relishes being a ‘baddie’.

Madame L’Eveque, the supposed owner of the chateau, is also acted with great glee by Rebecca McKinnis, as is the Grace’s nanny, Kathryn, by Gemma Stroyan, even if she appears to have a charmed life!

Other roles include Jack Alexander (Alex Stedman) who never arrives but is in fact already there and Giovanna Fletcher as Grace’s wife Cleo, who is inclined to shout rather than project her lines.

Fans of Peter James and Superintendent Grace will find plenty to enjoy here, as did the almost full house at Brighton, and should not be disappointed. Enjoyable, undemanding entertainment – assuming that one can follow the plot!! It is touring until the end of July (Woking) if readers are not able to see it at Brighton, so Peter James’ fans will have every opportunity to judge for themselves!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Following on from five hit stage shows and the new acclaimed ITV series ‘Grace’ the work of best-selling author Peter James returns to Theatre Royal Brighton with the world premiere stage adaption of Wish You Were Dead.

An all-star cast includes George Rainsford, who returns to the stage after eight years as Ethan Hardy in BBC One’s Casualty, Clive Mantle, much loved for many roles including Casualty, Game of Thrones and the iconic ‘puddle’ scene in Vicar of Dibley and the multi-talented actress, novelist, podcaster and winner of I’m A Celebrity, Giovanna Fletcher.

When Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and Cleo Morey take their first holiday together, they hope for a few days away from their dark worlds of murder and the mortuary. But their dream escape turns out to be the holiday from hell.


Picture You Dead at Theatre Royal Brighton
Tue 4 Mar – Sun 9 Mar 2025

Picture You Dead at Richmond Theatre
Tue 18 Mar – Sat 22 Mar 2025

Picture You Dead at Milton Keynes Theatre
Tue 6 May – Sat 10 May 2025

Picture You Dead at Theatre Royal Glasgow
Tue 10 Jun – Sat 14 Jun 2025

Picture You Dead at The Alexandra, Birmingham
Tue 24 Jun – Sat 28 Jun 2025

Wish You Were Dead was at Theatre Royal Brighton from Monday 20th March, 2023 to Saturday 25th March, 2023.

Theatre Royal Glasgow
Tue 28 Mar – Sat 1 Apr 2023

Richmond Theatre
Tue 18 Apr – Sat 22 Apr 2023

Milton Keynes Theatre
Tue 25 Apr – Sat 29 Apr 2023

The Alexandra, Birmingham
Tue 20 Jun – Sat 24 Jun 2023

New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Tue 25 Jul – Sat 29 Jul 2023

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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2 thoughts on “Wish You Were Dead at Theatre Royal Brighton”

  1. Sorry I found the play very underwhelming and disappointing. it didn’t know if it wanted to be a comedy or drama and certainly was not scary or thrilling. Acting was over the top amateurish.

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