I have to admit that I have enjoyed the television exploits of the Brighton-based Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. It makes a change to have a copper who is neither an alcoholic nor serial womaniser and is a victim in his private life rather than an aggressor. I was, therefore, looking forward to seeing what Stage Adaptor Sean McKenna and Director Jonathan O’Boyle made of Author Peter James’ novel in the Grace series.

For those of you who are not familiar with the TV series Grace, the eponymous hero, played by John Simm, is left in limbo when his wife, Sandy, disappears but no body is found. In the third series he applies to have her declared officially dead due to the length of time she has been missing and his attempts to find her having come to nothing. This is done and he begins a romance with Cleo Morey, the pathologist at his police station. All is going well until we see shots of Sandy alive and well and seemingly coming back to look for him, something of which he is blissfully unaware.

I now must warn you that, should you be a Grace fan, there is a spoiler in this play, and also, that I can’t pursue my normal modus operandi by outlining the plot. I can, however, set the scene, which is a run-down French chateau in the middle of nowhere where Roy Grace, his wife, Cleo and their young child have just arrived to spend a break with their nanny, Kaitlyn Carter and her fiancé Jack, a colleague of Roy and Cleo, to celebrate the conclusion of a major case which Roy has solved. That’s the TV spoiler sorted then.

Katie McGlynn as Cleo Grace, George Rainsford as Roy Grace and the suit of armour as himself

Jack has travelled separately and when the others arrive he is not there. They are met by the first of the many ‘suspense play’ clichés, unless you count the remote chateau, a French woman with an ‘Allo, ‘Allo accent and all the welcoming charm of a rabid Rottweiler. Rather than it be named Château-sur-L’Évêque, it should have had a sign saying ‘Tours de Fawlty’. She introduces herself as Madame L’Eveque and says that the only two occupants are herself and the Vicomte L’Eveque, who is ill and spends most of the time upstairs in his room.

Although the three guests and the baby have been delayed by roadworks and, cliché number two, a heavy thunderstorm, she says that they have missed lunch and reluctantly provides some bread and cheese, whilst informing them that there has been no sign of Jack. Roy decides to try phoning Jack, he is not an ace detective for nothing, but, you’ll never guess what happens, there is no mobile signal and the lines to the house phone are down. You can count the clichés yourself from now on. He decides to drive back to the main road to see if he can get a mobile signal but blow me down if the car battery isn’t dead. They obviously speculate to themselves as to why Jack is late, and make the best of the situation.

Clive Mantle (Curtis) Photograph by Craig Sugden

The action is regularly interrupted by the lights going out and the trip box needing to be thumped to get them back on, as well as an occasional banging on the ceiling by Vicomte L’Eveque to summon Madame. There is also suit of armour which seems to keep adjusting its stance prompting the guests to see is anyone is inside.

The first act ends with the final number in the game of Suspense Bingo, the Vicomte appearing at the side of the stage dressed in smoking jacket and cap, seated in a Bath chair. After he miraculously becomes able suddenly to speak English, the curtain falls.

The second act must remain a secret as the plot is revealed and the real action begins. I am also unable to be specific about some of the characters and the cast members who play them.

Katie McGlynn as Cleo Grace and Gemma Stroyan as Kaitlynn Carter

The problem with transferring characters who have appeared on TV to the stage is that theatrical actors have to speak in a voice loud enough to be heard at the back of the ‘gods’ which means that there is a lack of nuance in their delivery, this means that George Rainsford, who plays Roy Grace and Katie McGlynn, Cleo Grace, are belting out their lines whilst in a precarious situation where they have just said that they had better not attract attention. Rebecca McKinnis, Madame L’Eveque, was not affected by the need to keep her voice down and neither were Clive Mantle as Curtis, or Callum Sheridan-Lee as Brent. Gemma Stroyan, although Scottish, maintained a Californian accent throughout – no idea, it must have been made clear in one of the other books in the series. Her main achievement, though was to make an entrance dressed in spotless pink slacks and an immaculately washed and pressed white blouse after having climbed through a skylight, waded through a muddy garden, climbed a tree and squeezed through a bedroom window! Along with George Rainsford, Katie McGlynn, Leon Stewart as Glenn Branson and Alex Steadman as Jack, at least she had a believable character to play, the others were very much caricatures. I thought that the star of the show was Vince Mallet as Vicomte L’Eveque, a joke you will only get if you read the programme – carefully.

Leon Stewart (Glenn Branson) Photograph by Craig Sugden

One thing I was very impressed by was the set, which I presume was the domain of Shaun McKenna, the Stage Adaptor. The main part of the stage was the living area of the chateau but a bedroom was situated just above this and to the right, whose back wall was transformed into another room of the building, either through a mesh screen or via back projection, I couldn’t work out which but it was impressive.

If you fancy a light-hearted night out at the theatre then this show is worth a visit although you will probably see the twists coming all the way down the M1.

Wish You Were Dead runs at Leeds Grand Theatre until 6th May. Please go to https://leedsheritagetheatres.com/whats-on/wish-you-were-dead-2023/ for further details and to buy tickets.

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