Festive comedy will be the offering when the Midhurst Players stage the Agatha Christie spoof Sleighed to Death.
Written by Peter Gordon, it will be directed by Mandy Carr, with performances from Wednesday, December 6 to Saturday, December 9 at the South Downs Centre Memorial Hall at 7.30pm.
A brand-new play, the piece is set in the mid-1930s and is the prequel to the Inspector Pratt trilogy of spoofs in the Christie whodunnit genre.
Peter’s plays have had more than 1,500 professional and amateur productions worldwide. He is well known for his Inspector Pratt trilogy of plays, plus a number of other comedies including Third Week in August and Out of Focus.
This latest instalment in the Pratt series is set on Christmas Eve. Pratt, with his unfortunate assistant Constable Mary Potter, is on a police fundraising mission with his magic show.
When they perform at a fine old country house, they suddenly find themselves at the centre of a family get-together which is rapidly turning nasty and rather violent. Determined to make a name for himself, Pratt enthusiastically sets about solving an attempted murder, with the usual calamitous results…
Director Mandy, who joined the Midhurst Players a couple of years ago after a number of years with the Graffham Rustics, is thoroughly enjoying her new home with the company: “They are so dedicated. They just love what they are doing – and are very talented too.
“The trilogy goes back quite a way. Peter Gordon wrote them quite a while ago about his hopeless Inspector Pratt. We did one of them, Murdered to Death, with the Rustics years and years ago, but now he has just written the prequel. It has just become available to amateur companies, and we are one of the first companies to be doing it. It is set when Inspector Pratt was still a sergeant. With Pratt, think Clouseau, but think bumblingly English. He has got a long-suffering police constable that he puts the blame on.
“It is set on Christmas Eve in the country home of Sir Walton Gates. It all happens between the afternoon and evening of Christmas Eve. Sergeant Pratt visits the home collecting for the Police Malevolent Fund, as he calls it… which sets the tone for the jokes. It is so funny. It is a laugh a minute.
“He finds his way into the sitting room through the French windows and he meets Sir Walton’s daughter and agrees to perform a magic show to raise money for the benevolent fund, but then things go from bad to worse. He is a walking disaster really.”
For Mandy, one of the key things is to capture the essence of the 1930s, particularly in the clipped way that people spoke: “It has also got all the Christie ingredients. You have got the lord with his scheming wife and naïve daughter and her bounder of a boyfriend.
“It is great fun to direct. People are really responding to it. The challenge will be not to laugh. We absolutely have got to play it straight. The cast have all got to take themselves very seriously!”
The result will be great entertainment for everyone, Mandy is sure: “It is a great family show. There is nothing untoward and nothing scary. It is a good family Christmas show for everyone – and is it also great fun!”
Tickets on http://www.midhurstplayers.co.uk.