Be careful out there. Very careful. Inspector Pratt, the most inept (and daftest) detective ever to lurch across a murder scene is back on stage. It’s the second part of Peter Gordon’s trilogy of comedy thrillers which poke affectionate fun at some of the sleuths and situations we all know so well from other media.
Cod endings are reasonably familiar. Cod openings are less so. During the Battle of Britain apparent war widow Nancy has retreated to just one wing of the spacious country house she has inherited. She’s recruited Ginny Farquar, a jolly-hockey-sticks chum, to organise the land girls and taken in a couple of paying guests. These include Blodwyn Morgan, a Welsh medium, and Enzo Garibaldi, an expatriate Italian who gives a new meaning to squashed-fly biscuits.
The corpse which brings Pratt and PC Thompkins into the house is that of Constable Atkins. Then there’s meddling spinster Miss Joan Maple (now, I wonder who she reminds me of?) and Sqaudron-leader Allwright (“call me Stiffy”), back from being shot down over France. Don’t believe a word of it! Voices speak from the dead, an extremely suspect sandwich goes missing and some very strange relationships are revealed.
Although the exposition at length of how very conclusions have been reached is part of the genre, the ones here do go on too long. Ian Dickens’ production tends to put his actors in straight lines so that they talk across each other rather than directly converse. That said, there are some very funny performances, especially by Katy Manning as Blodwyn in full-spate Celtic flow and David Callister as Pratt – a man with more Malapropisms than Sheridan’s beldame and a lethal ability to grasp at numerous wrong twig-ends of the proverbial stick.
Michelle Hardwick as Nancy and Nicola Weeks as Ginny are somewhat outshone by Christopher Elderwood’s no-nonsense Thompkins and Ingrid Evans’ beanpole Miss Maple. Leslie Grantham looks as though he enjoys being Garibaldi, who can’t keep his hands off a shapely female behind, as does Richard Gibson as dot-and-carry-one Roger Allwright. Alan Miller Bunford’s set took on a life of its own at the performance I saw, which could have spoilt the joke but managed not to.