What would you do for those you love? That’s the question at the heart of this new stage adaptation from the popular Roy Grace detective series.
In this instalment of the stories by Peter James, Grace has ventured on holiday to France with his wife and their three-month old baby, accompanied by detective colleague Jack Alexander and his girlfriend and their nanny Kaitlynn.
But all is not what it seems at the creepy chateau they arrive at, tired and exhausted after a rainy drive across rural France – and it’s not just that the rundown reality doesn’t match up with the TripAdvisor reviews.
The plot has the kind of twists and turns you expect from James, with some neat bluffs and tricks – extending even to the programme’s cast list. The dialogue in Shaun McKenna’s script is shot through with humour alongside the darker elements of the story.
Casualty star George Rainsford and actor and author Giovanna Fletcher are a convincing couple as DSI Grace and his pathologist wife, and Gemma Stroyan is likeable as their Californian childcare help.
Rebecca McKinnis shows the greatest range as house keeper Madame L’Eveque, handling early funny lines as comfortably as her later more emotional material. Holby City‘s Clive Mantle feels to be more transparently playing a part, with a slightly comic-book wideboy villain take on gangleader Curtis.
The action is heavily weighted towards the second half and while the first act doesn’t exactly drag, Jonathan O’Boyle’s direction doesn’t ramp up the tension in the way you suspect is intended. The physical on-stage conflict also needs more pace to really thrill the audience.
James’ storytelling makes this an entertaining night out, but it could do with more spirit in the direction and staging to make it really come alive.
- Wish You Were Dead continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday, 25 February 2023.