Review: Wish You Were Dead, New Theatre, Cardiff

Kate Griffin heads to Cardiff’s New Theatre to review the latest Peter James’ crime thriller, Wish You Were Dead starring George Rainsford, Katie McGlynn and Clive Mantle.

Holidays are supposed to be a chance to get away from working life. But Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is having trouble switching off from the day job – and it isn’t long before the repercussions of a past case are sending shockwaves through what was supposed to be an idyllic retreat.

Wish You Were Dead, starring George Rainsford as DSI Grace, has all the hallmarks of the classic country house thriller. The isolated location, the storm that brings down the power lines and an unwelcoming host. Clever pacing ramps up the tension as the situation shifts from amusingly odd to full-on terrifying.

Many people will already know DSI Grace, either from the best-selling novels or the ITV series Grace. This is actually the sixth stage adaptation of the novels, making it the second most successful crime thriller stage franchise ever (after the legendary Mousetrap). George Rainsford has big shoes to fill as such an established character, but makes the role his own and allows us to see the detective’s vulnerable side when his family is threatened.

Katie McGlynn, best known as Sinead from Coronation Street, makes her stage debut as Grace’s pathologist wife Cleo. She is extremely believable as the young mum hoping for sunshine and relaxation who shows unexpected courage in the face of serious danger. The way the couple tackle the situation together shows us that teamwork is at the heart of their relationship.

Clive Mantle, best known as surgeon Mike Barratt on Casualty, plays against type and puts his towering height to intimidating use as gangster Curtis.

Wish You Were Dead is a real thriller with a few schlocky touches – thunderstorm, anyone? Did that suit of armour just move or is it my imagination? But there are plenty of everyday, familiar elements too. Most people know what it’s like to have the sat-nav let you down; many of us have encountered an eccentric B&B host at some point; most vegetarians have had to awkwardly refuse a plate of ham. These relatable touches add welcome humour to lighten the peril.  Roy Grace may be having the holiday from hell, but the audience is in for a thoroughly entertaining time.

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