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Adapted exclusively for the stage, Peter James’ Wish You Were Dead is touring the UK and has arrived at The Alexandra, Birmingham.

Following on from five previous stage adaptations of James’ work and a well-received television series - ITV’s Grace, starring John Simm in the title role - this new production finds Detective Superintendent Roy Grace (George Rainsford of Casualty fame) and his pathologist wife, Cleo (Katie McGlynn, best known from Coronation Street), taking their first holiday together with their infant son, Noah. Along with friend and colleague Jack and his American girlfriend, Kaitlynn, the couple are looking forward to a relaxing holiday away from the grisly business of solving murders and undertaking post-mortems.  

The first act is full of mystery and subterfuge. It soon becomes alarmingly apparent that Grace and Cleo have been drawn into a perilous trap. They are staying in a crumbling and isolated French chateau - complete with a gruesome suit of armour, creaking staircase, taxidermy heads, a sinister-looking painting in the bridal suite and a less-than-welcoming host in Madame L’Eveque (Rebecca McKinnis). When they arrive at the property, they discover that Jack, who has got there before them, has disappeared. It gradually dawns on the remaining group that they are totally isolated, with no phone signal, no Wi-Fi, and a car that doesn’t start!

At the end of the first act, villain-of-the-piece Curtis (played by Clive Mantle, also of Casualty fame) makes himself known, setting up a second act in which he explains his motive for luring the holidaymakers to the chateau. But will Grace et al be able to escape his deadly clutches?... 

Peter James is a crime-thriller writer par excellence, but this tale of revenge played more like a dark comedy. Might it be a send-up? It’s difficult to say, but it certainly sat somewhere between a traditional whodunnit play and a work of lighthearted hokum. Although excellent use of lighting and sound generated jump-in-the-seat moments, the show was smattered with humour, causing the mounting tension to break on numerous occasions. And unusually for a play of its kind, it also used background music at moments of high drama and intrigue - an aspect of the experience which I found somewhat distracting.  

Wish You Were Dead has by no means met with universal acclaim on its travels around the country, but from a personal point of view I found that it ticked plenty of boxes. It was engaging, suspenseful, and the actors were certainly giving it their all. 

As long as you’re not expecting a deadly serious crime drama, there’s plenty to enjoy in this latest DS Grace escapade.

Reviewed by Sue Hull on Tuesday 20 June at The Alexandra, Birmingham, where the show runs until Saturday (24 June).