Wish You Were Dead at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Wish You Were Dead is the sixth instalment of Peter James’ acclaimed crime novel series to be adapted for the stage and continues Detective Superintendent Roy Grace’s story.

Wish You Were Dead at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

For fans of the saga, this story is a familiar one, and as the programme states, is based upon James’ own holiday from hell in 2018. It is a shame then, that for a non-fan, the production lacked suspense, mystery and unfortunately, was more comical than thrilling.

The story follows Roy Grace, played by George Rainsford, and his pathologist wife Cleo (Katie McGlynn), who, as parents to a new-born, are desperately in need of a break. Joined by family friend Kaitlynn (Gemma Stroyan), they finally arrive at their French château after a day of delays and atrocious weather. However, their holiday isn’t quite what they dreamed it would be. The gaudy, gothic accommodation is nothing like what was advertised online and even worse, there’s no WIFI or phone signal.

Suspicions rise as Jack (Alex Stedman) fails to turn up for their couples’ holiday, despite indication that he has arrived already. This is heightened somewhat by the presence of the lowering Madame L’ Évèque (Rebecca McKinnis), a melodramatic and begrudging French hostess who describes the mysterious knockings and noises from upstairs as the old Vicomte demanding attention. The detective element to the story slowly unravels as we discover that Roy’s work back home is the reason for their vacation predicament, as a past case begins to haunt the family. 

One of the real highlights of this production is the set, designed by Michael Holt. It perfectly reflects the description Peter James makes of the hotel in which he stayed (lined with animal heads and creaky floors) and is authentically gothic and eerie. The lighting and sound design is also top notch and is effective in creating an unnerving atmosphere.

Despite great design elements and an interesting premise, the play is not without its flaws. The plot is too predictable so ultimately lacks the dramatic tension necessary to make this a truly gripping crime story. The dialogue too, is problematic, as it often surface-level: though, the genre of the production plays a part in this. The play is better in the first act but only marginally, as the story takes a while to unfold and thus, failed to fully draw me in. 

Once the trap is sprung in act two, the play becomes quite static at times. This isn’t aided by the panto-esque villain character Curtis (Clive Mantle). Characters are either two-dimensional or melodramatic which again, takes away from building suspense and instead gives the story a comical edge which feels at odds with the true intent of the production.

Overall, this was an enjoyable night at the theatre with great design elements and good performances from the cast. However, the effort to blend the mystery and gothic genres in Wish You Were Dead is undermined by a lack of depth and tension and clouded further by a redundant attempt at comedy.

Author

Elisha Pearce

Elisha Pearce Voice Reviewer

Elisha is a graduate of MA Theatre at the University of Lincoln. She has recently returned to her Staffordshire roots, where she reviews productions for Upper Circle Theatre and now, Voice Magazine at venues across the West Midlands. She is also a budding playwright and is currently developing her most recent play 'Elsie' with Write Up! at The Old Rep Theatre. Elisha is super excited to join the team at Voice Magazine and looks forward to seeing a range of boundary-pushing, contemporary performances.

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