Wish You Were Dead
Before I go any further let me say that I am a fan of Peter James novels, the man can certainly spin a good yarn, tie that yarn in knots and then with some deft twists untangle the story. His characters are well drawn too, Roy Grace is a fine creation, a gentle and understated vision of a detective not drawn from the brash and blundering list of stereotypes. Yes, I’ve read them all, and yes I am genuinely a fan.
So when presented by this most recent staging of one of his works it fills my heart and my head with sadness. From the moment I set eyes on the set I was mystified, It may well have been a representation of some French chateau that the designer had once seen but it looked far more like a baronial highland pile, all gloom and doom, so much so that there was a solid hint of Hammer Horror about it. The Hammer again falls hard when the opening scenes are punctuated by thunderclaps and lightening flashes and moments of suspense heralded by dark and moody classical chords.
From the very start, it was clear that this was the direction that the director had chosen and taking that route, he had taken Roy Grace down a regressive road and abandoned him in a sub standard, please god bring back Agatha Christie, murder mystery.
On the upside there are occasional glimpses of Peter James humour, witty lines, local references and those clever twists. And for the most part the cast seem to run with it, often against all the odds. George Rainsford makes a decent Roy Grace and has some of that unassuming and often modest character that one finds in the books. Cleo is far more jolly than my vision of his pathologist partner, but Giovanna Fletcher pulls it off and Gemma Stroyan makes the most of the part of Kaitlynn.
Rebecca McKinnis handles her role with confidence and the transition sits well, especially as the plot unfolds. Clive Mantle’s portrayal of Curtis is, well, it’s totally over the top, shouting, swaggering and lurching around the stage in a manner that makes a Quentin Tarantino villain look like a kids TV presenter and when his son arrives on the scene he has no place to go but to top that swagger.
The rest of the company have little or indeed nothing to do.
This is a good story thrown away in a production that is dated and dull. The writer and the cast deserve better, far better.
Theatre Royal Brighton