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Peter James' Wish You Were Dead Review | The Lowry | Manchester

Filling the crime and thriller void in theatre, Peter James’s sixth stage adaptation, Wish You Were Dead, offers audiences a haunting escape alongside the long-suffering detective, Superintendent Roy Grace.

The die-hard fans who have ploughed through James’s 18 Dead titled novels will have no problem taking a quick vacation to the Lowry with Grace and family as they travel from Sussex to France on their first holiday. We follow DSI Grace (Casualty’s George Rainsford), his wife Cleo (Giovanna Fletcher) and their three-month-old child as they travel to the Château-l'Évêque with a friend in tow. But after discovering that their friend’s boyfriend, fellow officer Jack, has failed to reach their destination, despite leaving ahead of them, the group are left confused and exposed. Unreachable by phone and losing light due to a storm, we watch as the group are forced to ride it out in an isolated, Wi-Fi free Chateau.

The impressively gaudy guest house takes over the Lowry stage with Jonathan O’Boyle’s direction placing the group in a run down and spooky aesthetic. With no other guests in the Chateau, their grumpy hosts Madame L’Eveque (Rebecca McKinnis) and her wheelchair bound partner Vicomte (Vince Mallet) are far from happy to greet their late and constantly complaining guests. As a result, much of the first act is used to explore the house, discover its various faults and question the mysterious hosts. While there is also not enough mystery or crime to solve in this live adaptation, Peter James knows how to entertain an audience. Including plenty of unbelievably silly moments and charmingly British taunts from the owners, the simple drama is amplified by its alluring set design and the infectious energy of its close-knit cast.

James’s live production offers a hard entry into the Roy Grace series, taking the DSI who has been around in print since 2004 and placing him out of the office for a family escapade. Even followers of the series are unlikely to see much conflict in an unknown character going missing from a party of four adults. With characters wandering around in various levels of confusion, unable to communicate with the outside world, the production leaves audiences to listen to characters explain car shaped plot holes which the show is unable to play out on stage.

The 2021 novella Wish You Were Dead is part of the commendable Quick Reads scheme created to encourage easy reading for adults. However, its stage production takes the same easy-going direction with its translation built for premade fans already familiar with Roy Grace’s backstory. The permanently guarded, off duty officer who is now committed to salvaging a dying family holiday, leaves too few clues to decode on the stage and the stories breathtakingly shaky plot has Scooby-Doo levels of characterisation. James’s reveals will please backseat Columbo’s who enjoy identifying bad guys from their accents and outfits. However, the lack of any tangible backstory or motives leaves this show to rely heavily on the visual flourishes of its unsettling location and its likeable ensemble.

For audiences venturing out for a cheeky crime short, accentuated with questionable French accents, dolls and amusing jump scares, Wish You Were Dead will undoubtedly leave you pleasantly entertained.

Tickets are available via the Lowry link

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