Wish You Were Dead

Shaun McKenna after Peter James
Josh Andrews and Peter James
Festival Theatre, Malvern

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Katie McGlynn (Cleo Grace), George Rainsford (Roy Grace) and Leon Stewart (Glenn) Credit: Dave Hogan
George Rainsford (Roy Grace) and Katie McGlynn (Cleo Grace) Credit: Dave Hogan
Katie McGlynn (Cleo Grace) and Gemma Stroyan (Kaitlynn) Credit: Dave Hogan

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace has taken time off with wife Cleo to enjoy a holiday with babysitting friends, having booked into a remote country house in rural France.

But something is amiss in designer Michael Holt’s Chateau-sur-L’Eveque with its animal heads, flickering lights, dodgy plumbing and a possibly inhabited, unstable suit of armour with enormous halberd. Cue thunderclap.

No-one seems to be at home, the telephone doesn’t work, there’s no Internet and Roy’s car is mysteriously disabled. Cue another thunderclap. Berlioz’s dies irae blares out on an old record player and an eerie knocking comes from above. Cue... oh, never mind.

There’s something fishy too about that stroppy French maid, who has prepared we know not what for lunch. In any case, the plot already has more stock ingredients than a bouillabaisse.

Add, however, your jolly psychopathic killer and the mixture comes to the boil after the interval in the latest Det. Supt. Grace thriller from Peter James, adapted by Shaun McKenna.

George Rainsford is the cool Roy ‘We have to outsmart them’ Grace, with ex-Corrie star Katie McGlynn as a vibrant Cleo. But Clive Mantle revels in cheerful villainy as vengeful gangster Curtis. I loved the line when he says of the Graces' crying baby (spoiler alert): "I’m not taking him up to the golf club for Sunday lunch if he’s going to behave like that."

Gemma Stroyan personifies the attitudes of American-in-quaint-France babysitting friend Kaitlynn and Rebecca McKinnis transmogrifies from the maid welcoming guests with the warmth of a frozen frog’s leg, to a slightly more sympathetic... Well, that would be telling too much.

It's hokum but fun. We learn, en passant, that one of the wily detective’s previous triumphs was known as ‘The Case of the Master of Disguise’. We are watching a bit of a send-up. Aren’t we?

The play's tour continues to Birmingham, Sheffield, Southend, Leicester and Woking.

Reviewer: Colin Davison

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