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Review: Wish You Were Dead

When Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and his mortician wife Cleo arrive in rural France for a much-needed break from the crime-riddled streets of Brighton, it turns out to be a proverbial busman’s holiday.

Because they find themselves involved in terror and violence as past crimes in England come back to haunt them in a spooky French chateau.

This is Wish You Were Dead, the latest of Peter James’s Grace stories to be adapted for stage, and which opened at Cardiff’s New Theatre last night (Tuesday 16 May).

It’s the sixth stage adaptation of James’s hugely popular books, apparently making this the most successful crime thriller stage franchise since Agatha Christie.

Fans of James and of the high-profile TV stars who head the cast will be keen to see this production, which gives Coronation Street‘s Katie McGlynn her first professional stage play role, as Cleo.

Casualty and Call the Midwife star George Rainsford plays DSI Grace (John Simm’s role in the TV version), but it’s good old reliable Clive Mantle who steals the show with a brilliant performance as veteran crime boss, Curtis.

The rest of the cast do a good job too, especially Gemma Stroyan and Rebecca McKinnis, who are supported by Callum Sheridan-Lee, Alex Stedman and Leon Stewart.

The story itself isn’t as strong as you might hope. For a thriller, it’s sometimes more silly than ‘thrilly’ and lacks the tension and twists you’d expect. But if you’re willing to go with it, this is an entertaining piece of crime drama escapism.

And at times it plays for laughs – successfully too, especially in the second act when the wise-cracking villains think they’ve got the upper hand.

It’s worth seeing for the set design alone – outstanding work by Michael Holt, whose design delivers the unsettling haunted house vibe and cleverly shows us rooms on other floors and even those initially hidden from view.

Holt is part of the talented creative team reunited from Looking Good Dead, which played at the New Theatre 18 months ago: producers Josh Andrews and Peter James, stage adaptor Shaun McKenna, director Jonathan O’Boyle, lighting designer Jason Taylor and sound designer Max Pappenheim.

Wish You Were Dead plays at the New Theatre until Saturday (May 20). Tickets are available here or from the box office on 0343 310 0041.

Review by Andy Weltch

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