Wish You Were Dead
Set: The set was rather masterful in the sense that no detail was left to the imagination. The manor was grand yet creepy in areas (a giant painting of jesus’ crucifixion being one particularly strange aspect). The house was mostly a wash of brown and dark red, and you sympathised with the characters when they complained how uninviting it was. The lighting stayed mostly the same throughout but when it did change it was effective; namely when blackouts occurred due to the thunder clapping.
Synopsis: When a detective and a mortuary assistant take a much-needed holiday with their baby and two friends, the French Chateau they are staying in is far less warm and cosy than they had expected. After experiencing a chain of suspicious goings-on as well as one of the members of their party disappearing, the family seeks a way out of the hellish French manor- though unresolved conflict comes back to the detective, in the form of violent revenge.
Review: Some of you may be familiar with the ITV crime series ‘Grace’ ; it follows a male detective who struggles to keep a work-life balance after he is approached by his colleague with a difficult case.
Yesterday evening I attended the stage adaptation of the series, starring Giovana Fletcher, Clive Mantle and George Rainsford. The play was set entirely in an old, French chateau with the typical suits of armour and creaky floorboards that you would expect. The opening began fairly eerily, the dark manor with only the light from a car outside the window. The mood was very quickly broken by a husband and wife running into the house complaining about the stormy weather- it was a good break of the suspense.
The entirety of act one was essentially as follows: both the husband, wife and their American friend proceeded to talk about the rain, they would then remark on the creepiness of the house, and lastly make some sort of lighthearted joke about it. From their entrance to the end of the first act, I have to say that none of the three main protagonists were particularly likeable or had any redeeming qualities whatsoever. Roy Grace (played by George Rainsford) was frankly boring and without much personality, Cleo Morey (played by Giovanna Fletcher) seemed to only talk about her baby and his constant needs for her attention, and Caitlyn (played by Gemma Stroyan) seemed to talk a lot and yet never had much to say. It is pertinent to note that I believe actors can only be as good as their script, and since the dialogue seemed to have been written by a person who thought audiences would love nothing more than to listen to an hour of small-talk,
I do not blame the actors for their characters being boring. In all honesty, the character I was most drawn to was the maid of the mansion. The French maid who ran the chateau (played by Rebecca McKinnis) was a dry-humoured pessimist who only ever saw the glass half empty. She was incredibly witty and her stark contrast to the all-too-happy guests was not only comedic but refreshing. The maid was by no means the only character to make jokes but she was, however, the only character that was funny. Something of note that particularly stood out was the lack of suspense around act one, I can recall one moment where a suit of armour nearly crushed Caitlyn which did have the audience jumping in their seats. Other than that, all attempts to create mystery were rather poorly written. One main example that jumps to mind was when the protagonists were remarking how suspicious the maid was, I understand that the writers were trying to give audiences clues that she was not all she seemed to be, but the way in which they did that was by putting a photo of her next to Freddie Mercury on a table in the honeymoon suite.
The characters noticed it and observed how strange it was, but instead of making the maid seem suspect, all it really did was make her look like a devoted Queen fan- which ironically only made me like her more. Attempts like this to create suspense were so subtle, that when the protagonists brushed it off saying they were probably making something out of nothing… I believed them. The turn of events in act one can be summarised in the single sentence ‘wow that looks suspicious but I’m going to ignore it anyway’, although things did pick up right towards the interval. A final reveal happened at the end of act one where two gang members who had unresolved issues with Roy make a sudden appearance and enact a hostage situation. Audiences are left on the edges of their seats as the interval begins, though mainly because they feel it ended while the plot was only just developing. Act two was far more interesting, I am glad to say.
Without giving too much away there are gunshots, murder and escape attempts, all accompanied by two villains who were entirely believable in their roles and their backstories (one of them played by Clive Mantle). Perhaps a criticism and a compliment at the same time, is that I found the telling of the backstory and the lead up to what motivated the hostage-taking far more interesting and gripping than the actual narrative at hand. I found myself wanting to know more about the ins and outs of the underground gang life that was being described, and wishing that I was seeing a play about that instead. The final events of act two were compelling and quite suspenseful- although not particularly caring for the main characters potentially took away a lot of the fear aspect that I could have been feeling at the prospect of them being murdered. I thoroughly enjoyed the complexity of the antagonist plot and how they eventually took charge and began showing off their capacity for heartless deeds, but I do wish this didn’t happen as late as the end of the first half. None of the actors did a bad job by any means, they were all believable in their roles, the issue is that none of their roles had a huge amount of depth to them (which is at fault of the writer).
Overall I have mixed feelings about ‘Wish you were dead’. On one hand it had genuinely scary villains who’s unpredictability added to the suspense, but on the other hand it had three main protagonists who I doubt many people cared for the welfare of. The acting was as good as it could be with such a clunky script though I would recommend the play to anyone who just wants to sit back and be entertained by a detective thriller, without having to wrack their brains over ‘whodunnit’. I would not say I was disappointed nor would I not recommend, but I certainly would not hold the play in the same view as its other detective competitors like ‘The Mousetrap’ for example. It was a good night and any means to go to the theatre is always a good one, I just wish the storyline did not take nearly an entire act to merit my investment.
4 stars out of 5 for us.
Reviewer Claudia Lynch.