Prat Pratt on the prowl again

Murder squad: Insp Pratt (David Callister) with Blodwyn Morgan (Katy Manning), Enzo Garibaldi (Leslie Gratham) and Nancy Allwright (Michelle Hardwick)

Death by Fatal Murder

Grand Theatre

***

ANYONE who saw Murdered to Death last year at the Grand will know that Inspector Pratt is . . . well a prat.

And David Callister’s Pratt is an even bigger prat than the prat Norman Pace gave us as his Pratt in last year's Ian Dickens’ summer season.

I must admit I thought Callister's prattish Pratt was quite amusing in the first half, full of hustle, bustle and malapropisms, a sort of cross between Del Boy and Inspector Clouseau with a bit of On the Buses’ Blakey and even a smattering of Private Pike thrown in.

Pratt started to drift into the realms of children’s television in the second half though, Tizwas and all that, when the dim inspector reappeared after being concussed for a scene that was a slapstick mix of panto and Carry On - think Hal Roach. We even had Del Boy’s now famous fall from leaning on a counter that wasn’t there which was rather over egging the pudding.

The script of this, the second of the trilogy of Inspector Pratt whodunits to be staged by Ian Dickens, is not as strong or as witty as the opener but still manages to keep all the elements of the traditional country house murder play set sometime around the Second World War and much beloved by Agatha Christie and her ilk.

Constable Atkins has gone missing on a visit to Bagshot House - scene of the inept Pratt’s last detection outing when the body count soared as soon as he arrived.

Constable Thompkins - played skilfully again by Christopher Elderwood - is sent to investigate and await the inept inspector in a house which since the unfortunate death of Col Haddock has been inherited by his daughter and turned into a b&b.

The b&b bit means we can have guests with Leslie Grantham as the mysterious Italian Enzo Garibaldi, or Gary Baldy as Pratt would have it, and the equally mysterious Welsh clairvoyant Blodwyn Morgan, played beautifully by ex-Dr Who girl Katy Manning.

Then there is the Colonel’s daughter Nancy Allwright (a bit of all . . . get it? Oh never mind) played by Michelle Hardwick - who was in last year’s production as con artist Elizabeth Hartley-Trumpington incidentally - and her husband Sq Ldr Roger “Stiffy” Allwright, played by Richard Gibson, old boy!

And amid it all is the amateur sleuth Miss Maple, Ingrid Evans, and house guest  Ginny Farquar, she of the hearty, horsey laugh played by Nicola Weeks, who is there to help out and manage the jolly old land gels, what!

The first of the trilogy had much more of an element of a whodunit, a comedy but still a murder mystery, while this one has more comedy, it's farce rather than mystery with not really enough clues or even a few red herrings chucked in for the audience to amuse themselves working out who did the evil deeds.

That being said there is enough to amuse them in other ways with a steady succession of laughs and it did pass the acid test of any play - the audience enjoyed it. To 09-06-11, next week sees Who Killed Agatha Christie?, the third in the quartet of Ian Dickens’ plays in the summer season.

Roger Clarke

 

View from the West Wing shrubbery

 ***

THIS is the second play in the Ian Dickens summer play season and it's a sequel to last year's Murdered to Death, with the bumbling Inspector Pratt once again looking totally clueless on the job.

Peter Gordon's comedy is a kind of English version of the film farces featuring Peter Sellers as the barmy Inspector Clouseau, and the hapless detective ties himself in knots investigating the mystery of a missing copper and a murder at the country manor, Bagshot House.

There are plenty of laughs, but David Callister, who has appeared in television's The Bill, tends to get a bit carried away with his interpretation of the role of Pratt whose constant malapropisms are at times quite enough.

The crazy cop ends up with a bandaged head and a black eye while his assistant, Constable Thompkins - impressively played by  Christopher Elderwood - tries to keep his boss in check.

There is also a sound performance from Katy Manning as the amusing clairvoyant Blodwyn Morgan. The play runs to Saturday night 09.07.11 and is followed next week by Who Killed Agatha Christie ?

Paul Marston

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