Reviewed by Louise Edwards
The Colin McIntyre season is back this week at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, celebrating its 30th anniversary, and kicks off with Sleighed to Death written by Peter Gordon and directed by John Goodrum.
Sleighed to Death is the prequel to the trilogy of comedy whodunnits featuring Inspector Pratt.
We are transported to the 1930s and the living room of Sir Walton Gates, played by Andrew Fettes. It is Christmas Eve and we meet Gates and his long serving private secretary, Moran McKay played by Jacqueline Gilbride, as they finish off some last minute business before the festive season.
Enter Grace Gates, the lady of the house who has recently married to Walton, after the tragic death of his first wife and the drinks start to flow. It is clear Grace has her feet well under the table and she isn’t too impressed with the forthcoming arrival of Walton’s only daughter, Emma Gates, played by Emma Vickery.
Emma sweeps in with her latest boyfriend, James Washington, played by the suave David Callister. Washington is full of stories of his bravery and the exciting life he leads.
The comedy is light as we get to know the characters and gradually pieces fall in to place as we learn Emma’s new beau and Grace Gates have history and when everyone is out of the room they embrace and declare their love for each other.
This is caught, unbeknown to them, by figure in doorway dressed as Santa who turns out to be Sergeant Pratt collecting charity money. He makes a swift exit before returning later.
Pratt, played with incredible comedy timing by David Callister, and his assistant, Constable Potter, played by Susan Earnshaw, are then met by Emma Gates who persuades them to put on a magic show to entertain the family party they have planned in return for a handsome donation to funds.
The cast is complete as we meet Archie Gates, the younger brother of Walton, who is visiting the family for Christmas from Australia where he was sent many years ago.
Comedy murder mystery is different for thriller season and by end of first half we were are left slightly puzzled by what was going to happen next.
The second half continues where it was left and we see Pratt’s hilarious mix up with words has the audience in stitches.
We really enjoyed this refreshing alternative to crime drama executed so cleverly and unexpectedly. Some of the jokes are dated (and are met with indignation rather than laughs) but the acting is incredible and with the plot twists, mistaken identity and comedy aplenty this show is really one you don’t want to miss.
Next week the same cast will star in A Touch of Danger and if tonight’s performance was any indicator the thriller season promises to be a must see. Tonight’s performance plays on the trappings of the traditional whodunnit but parodies and sends it up beautifully to hilarious comic effect.
Tickets cost from £12 to £25 (booking fees may apply).
Sleighed to Death is at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham from 31 July to 4 August 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.trch.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.
Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND