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Wish You Were Dead

Malvern Theatres


I am very keen on crime thrillers and police procedurals and really enjoyed the two series of Grace on ITV, so I was hoping to see something very similar in this stage version of Peter James’ novel, Wish You Were Dead. However, I was disappointed and rather bewildered by this production.

Mr James has sent Detective Superintendent Roy Grace (George Rainsford), wife Cleo (Katie McGlynn) and their baby on holiday to France with their friends Jack (Alex Stedman) and Kaitlynn (Gemma Stroyan) but, in crossing the Channel, their characters seem to have undergone a transformation and all the subtleties of the TV version have been lost.

They arrive at their dilapidated chambre d’hote – a great set created in gloomy, French gothic style by Michael Holt – in a storm (rather like the one we had just dodged outside the theatre) and a tale of holiday horror begins.

There is just so much wrong with the place: the flickering lights, dusty ancient furniture, suspicious suit of armour, no phone lines or wifi and their forbidding hostess, Madame L’Eveque (Rebecca McKinnis) that anyone who has ever seen this dramatic scenario before would jump in their car and leave immediately. But Jack has not yet arrived, so they are forced to stay the night.



The story is acted mainly for laughs, with quite a lot of shouting (especially by Katie McGlynn) rather than a normal level of dialogue. I would have liked more variation in tone, light and shade, and to believe that the lines flowed as a real response to a situation or emotion. The whole of the first half is taken up by scene-setting and we learn that Grace is desperate to keep in touch with a current police operation involving a notorious family of criminals based on his home patch of Brighton. There is a not-too-shocking end to Act 1 when we discover that their hosts at the chateau are not what or who they seem.

Act 2 is dominated by Curtis (Clive Mantle), the father of the criminal clan, who is set on punishing Grace for perceived wrongs done to his family. We should feel the mounting fear and suspense as Grace tries to find a way out of this dangerous predicament and save the lives of his family and friends, but this is undermined by giving Curtis and his son, Brent (Callum Sheridan-Lee), all the best lines and jokes. Clive Mantle creates a very believable character but we should not warm to him as the audience very clearly did.

Grace’s Brighton sidekick, Detective Sargeant Glenn Branson (Leon Stewart – every inch a policeman), makes a timely appearance and helps to tie up all the loose ends, although most of these have been heavily signposted already.

Adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna and directed by Jonathan O’Boyle the morbid wish will be aiming to be fulfilled to 17-06-23.

Sue Hawkins


The production heads north to The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham 20-24 June, 2023

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