Arts Reviews

“A Sensationalised Episode Of A Soap Drama” – Wish You Were Dead @ Theatre Royal

Ana Balanici and Amy Child

The new stage play from bestselling author Peter James, adapted by Shaun McKenna, comes to Nottingham Theatre Royal between 27th February – 4th March. Hoping for a few days away from their stressful world, Detective Roy Grace and his wife Cleo Morey take a holiday in rural France. However, things don’t go quite as planned. Impact’s Ana Balanici and Amy Child review. 

This play begins with a couple and their babysitter arriving at their holiday home: a historic chateau in the French countryside. The set was gorgeous, or so we thought; for the entire first half an hour, all the guests do is complain about it (the sofas are too tatty, there are no TVs in the bedrooms, the wine isn’t good enough, there are no servants to carry their suitcases etc.). And how ironic, considering that the set was one of the best parts of the production. All this whining didn’t exactly make the main characters likeable from the outset, which became an issue throughout the play. 

The plot played out like a sensationalised episode of a soap drama: it was simple and predictable, the turns didn’t really shock, and some of the events were so far-fetched that they were almost ridiculous. Had this play been a comedy or a satire, it might have worked well, but the fact that it took itself so seriously whilst being so melodramatic was strange. 

He’s met one of the villains before, and didn’t recognise her through her ‘disguise’ – a pair of glasses. If you’re ever in need of a detective, we wouldn’t recommend him, that’s for sure. 

In the first act, there were a lot of bland conversations which didn’t foreshadow anything, only gave the story a slow pace. Whilst there was some attempt at humour in the script, it often fell flat and only produced occasional chuckles. Then, before the interval, the action escalated to the extreme out of nowhere. The stakes were high, but there was little tension (despite efforts to increase it with sinister background music). We didn’t believe for a second that the protagonists weren’t going to escape. The villains were all talk and no action; there was no way they’d get away. 

One of the most unbelievable aspects of the show was that the husband was supposed to be a detective. However, he constantly dismissed everything his wife and babysitter pointed out as blatantly suspicious. Sudden loss of signal out of nowhere? Normal. French maid who makes lots of grammatical errors in French? Normal. Photoshopped picture which clearly is off due to the timeline? Nothing to worry about. And on top of all these suspicious occurrences, he leaves his wife and 2-month-old child alone in this house. Not to mention, he’s met one of the villains before, and didn’t recognise her through her ‘disguise’ – a pair of glasses. If you’re ever in need of a detective, we wouldn’t recommend him, that’s for sure. 

Speaking of people being incompetent at their jobs, there’s also a policeman- who has been alerted to his colleague being in danger in the house- who turns up and immediately leaves again, then returns later inexplicably, leaving a man to get shot in the meantime. Moreover,  two supposedly mastermind criminals leave handcuffed people alone in a room with glass bottles, which they easily use to cut themselves free. Oh, and by the way, the wife is a post-mortem examiner – not that it means anything. 

The acting itself was pretty flat throughout, with a lot of the lines half-shouted towards the audience. Clive Mantle did stand out as contributing some charisma. Whilst the acting did pick up towards the end, it came disappointingly too little too late. 

Overall, we felt let-down by this production. If you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat thriller to keep you gripped and guessing, we suggest you look for it elsewhere.

Ana Balanici and Amy Child

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image courtesy of @peterjamesonstage via No changes were made to this image.

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