SLEIGHED TO DEATH: Peter Gordon.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval: till 4th August.
Performance times: 7.30pm weekdays, 3pm and 6pm Saturday (Matinee 2.00pm Weds).
Review: Alan Geary: 31st July 2018.
The Thriller Season’s back in Nottingham – with a winner.
For the thirtieth summer running the Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season is back at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.
It’s a fine start. Peter Gordon’s Sleighed to Death is a prequel to his two Inspector Pratt comedies we’ve already enjoyed in previous seasons. You can tell it’s a prequel because Pratt’s only a sergeant at this stage of his disastrous career – how he ever made the force in the first place is one of the major mysteries of the play.
The action happens in 1929, on Christmas Eve – hence the give-away title. But there are other, less subtle clues: a decorated Christmas tree stands in the corner of the country house set; and as the action begins Sir Walton Gates, played by Andrew Fettes in a welcome return to the thrillers, is half-humming, half-singing O Come Let Us Adore Him.
But there’s nothing especially Christmassy about the plot, a complicated affair involving a clutch of outrageous stereotypes, most of them up to skulduggery of one sort or another. Sir Walton, the local squire type, has a silly-ass accent, a limp (the significance of which is revealed later) and a second wife, Grace (Karen Henson), who’s irresistibly glamorous. They’re entertaining guests.
There’s Sir Walton’s brother Archie, the family ne’er-do-well, back from Australia, where he’s been failing as a sheep farmer. He’s played by Jeremy Lloyd Thomas, who also of course gets to do an accent.
Then there’s air-headed and lisping daughter Emma (Emma Vickery), with the latest man friend, James (David Martin), who seems to be good at everything – playing cricket for his county, rugger, African exploration, mountaineering …. All these are kept in order by Sir Walton’s formidable Scottish secretary, Morag McKay (Jacqueline Gilbride), who comes complete with another extreme accent.
All-round acting standards are high by anyone’s reckoning. But performance of the evening is undoubtedly that of David Callister, as Sergeant Pratt, monumentally incompetent, good only for churning out malapropisms, and badly botched conjuring tricks. A master of the slowly-dawning realisation and comic timing in general, Callister conveys his character’s cowardice, insecurity, and childlike cunning with uncanny skill. It’s a tremendous piece of work.
The play deserves wider exposure.
Sir Walton Gates: Andrew Fettes.
Morag McKay: Jacqueline Gilbride.
Grace Gates: Karen Henson.
Emma Gates: Emma Vickery.
James Washington: David Martin.
Sergeant Pratt: David Callister.
Constable Potter: Susan Earnshaw.
Archie Gates Jeremy Lloyd Thomas.
Director: John Goodrum.
Designer: Sarah Wynne Kordas.
Lighting Designer: Michael Donoghue.
Sound Designer: David Gilbrook.
Wardrobe: Geoff Gilder.