Adapted exclusively for the stage, Peter James’ Wish You Were Dead is the latest thrilling installment of the Grace Series – the most successful modern-day crime stage franchise since Agatha Christie. It’s currently performing at the beautiful Richmond Theatre as part of its UK tour. 

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace (played by George Rainsford) and wife Cleo (played by Giovanna Fletcher) take their first holiday together. Cleo hopes that she will finally get time together for a few days with Roy, who is having time away from crime solving exploits. But their dream escape turns out to be the holiday they least expected or desired.

On first appearance I wouldn’t be aware that this is a French château. The adaptability of the set (with one trick in particular that I didn’t see coming) is a notable stand out – especially with a character mentioned so frequently but never see more than two minutes of. Looking at the set and seeing what seems like a copy of The Mousetrap, it isn’t clear what the time period of this play was set in. However, I  loved the gothic aesthetic created by this Michael Holt design, giving a thrilling vibe topped with a full-suited knight in shining armour!

From the very start I was drawn in with all the subtle cues such as car lights, rain, and outside voices before the interior is even played in. The most realistic sound tone in a theatre made by Jason Taylor works really well. It set my sights pretty high for what was to come.

Even with the star-studded cast, the dialogue drags on with so many unnecessary details or just talking for talking’s sake. Cheesy sound effects are pushed at dramatic points, essential cues were missed at certain points, and so much goes on visually to attempt to show the passing of time. All of these factors just slow the pacing, and all the reveals are too-quickly done before the end of the first act! 

Mrs Fletcher gives an exaggerated performance, often heightened beyond all her character really has to play with. Gemma Stroyan as Kaitlyn gives a very convincing over-the-top American – although I feel like we learned nothing about her relationship to anyone except the ceramic crying baby. Rainsford as Roy really gives the most genuine performance to his best ability with the material given, though true authority of his detective feels lacked.  Rebecca Mckinnis as Madam L’Everque/Tessa has the most established role within the play, her range of characters providing a backstory and a high-level of emotive range. 

Reaching the interval, I was unsure how much further the play was able to go. To my surprise, it did keep going with plenty of talkative plot twists which felt somewhat predictable. It is hard to believe it’s set to modern day with many bad technology jokes made from our main baddie (played by Clive Mantle) and the obstructions they caused in the play. It just seems too far fetched. The overall ending was very Scooby Doo-esque.

Regardless, it was refreshing to see a thriller that doesn’t introduce paranormal activity and feels original in some parts, though it very much feels like it should be a TV episode of a series more so than a stage adaptation. This thriller unintentionally feels like more of a comedy with bad pacing and dialogue to boot. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Wish You Were Dead is on a tour of the UK, you can find more info here.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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