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Wish You Were Dead – Richmond Theatre

When booking your holidays, do you use Trip Advisor and other similar sites? The reason I ask this is that having seen Peter James’ Wish You Were Dead at Richmond Theatre, I have the feeling at least one of the families involved will not be relying on recommendations anymore.

Wish You Were Dead. Play Touring UK
Wish You Were Dead. Play Touring UK.

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace (George Rainsford) and his wife Cleo (Giovanna Fletcher) are starting their holiday at a French Maison D’Hôtes owned by Vicomte L’Eveque (Vince Mallett) and his daughter-in-law (Rebecca McKinnis). Things have not got off to a good start as they, along with their baby son, his nanny Kaitlynn (Gemma Stroyan), and Roy’s colleague (and Kaitlyn’s boyfriend) Jack (Alex Stedman), have been delayed thanks to bad weather and a non-sat nav approved route. Still, they are here now, and Roy is very happy. Not only is he looking forward to a nice holiday with his family, but he also knows that back in the UK, a notorious crime gang is about to be broken up. A gang that Roy has been chasing for most of his career since he was responsible for the arrest and incarceration of patriarch Curtis (Clive Mantle). Now, the current head, Brent (Callum Sheriden-Lee) is about to be arrested and the citizens of Brighton will be able to relax as much as Roy will be at the chateau.

I must admit I haven’t read any of Peter James’ work but, looking through Wikipedia, he seems to be a pretty prolific and successful crime writer – in 2015, WH Smith named him The Best Crime Author of all Time – and I will be giving his books a go now. Adapted by Shaun McKenna, from his novel of the same name Wish You Were Dead is not a conventional murder mystery. In fact, there is a distinct lack of corpses all over the place. The story is a crime thriller in two parts. The first act sets up the story and the second provides detail, exposition, and a final denouement. Unfortunately, apart from the end of the first act, there were no surprises for me in the narrative. Maybe I have just read too many of these stories, but I pretty much had everything worked out about ten minutes into the second act and the remainder of the performance was the cast confirming what I already knew.

Michael Holt’s two-level set – complete with a suit of armour that was quite the topic of conversation in the interval – was very reminiscent of an Agatha Christie style setting and Director Jonathan O’Boyle used it very well. Max Pappenheim’s sound and lighting worked well to give the chateau a suitable look but one thing I didn’t understand was why he included atmospheric music at various points, particularly in the second act. In a film or TV programme, incidental music added to the atmosphere and emotion works, but I’m really not sure it does in a theatre, and personally, I found it rather distracting. I will praise the baby though. I’ve no real idea how it was done, but whenever the child was making sounds – gurgling, crying, laughing you know the sort of thing – the noise came from the baby really making the child seem more real than it might have been.

Performance-wise, the cast are strong, giving good solid portrayals of their various characters. Clive Mantle in particular really dominated the stage from the moment he appeared. Along with the three headliners, who worked hard to make their characters believable, the rest were all good. I did have a favourite and although I can’t tell you why without giving certain things away, I really liked Rebecca McKinnis as Madame L’Eveque. This was a really great performance that truly brought the character out beautifully.

Wish You Were Dead has definitely whetted my appetite to go and read Peter James books and was pretty entertaining but overall it really didn’t do it for me. It is a well-put-together show with a great cast, but the story just wasn’t right. To my mind, and again without giving anything away, there were some rather large plot holes that didn’t really make sense either in the overall narrative or the characters we came to.

3 Star Review

Review by Terry Eastham

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.

Adapted exclusively for the stage, Wish You Were Dead is the latest thrilling instalment of the Grace Series – the most successful modern-day crime stage franchise, since Agatha Christie.

Wish You Were Dead is at Richmond Theatre from Tuesday 18th April, 2023 to Saturday 22nd April, 2023.

View all shows booking now at Richmond Theatre.

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