Inspector Drake's Last Case

Date 10th December 2021
Society Leighton Buzzard Drama Group
Venue Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre
Type of Production Farce
Director Barbara Springthorpe

Report

Author: Richard Fitt

In this rather depressing, scary, dystopian world we now find ourselves in we could all do with a bit a cheering up, a good laugh and something to take our minds off the real world. Well for a couple hours Saturday that’s exactly what we got at Leighton Buzzard’s Library Theatre. Pure escapism as we all tried to puzzle out the mystery of Inspector Drake’s last case, whilst laughing our socks off.

But first I had great pleasure in presenting LBDG with one of NODA’s Covid Warriors Awards, which are awarded to those groups who have gone out of their way to keep the show on the road and us all entertained during the last year or so. In this case it was for their superb online pantomime from Jan 2021 – Robin Hood – Ye Old Zoom Panto. Well-deserved guys!

Back to Inspector Drake. I must admit I’d not seen this before and what a little gem it is. This was tongue-in-cheek farce bordering on lunacy. When it came to the plot, with, as is obligatory in murder mystery, lots of twists and turns, red herrings and lots of laughs. First, we had the wonderful in front the curtain scene setting by Sergeant Plod (Mark Croft). Then we opened to an absolutely splendid period box set of a living room by Mike Ward and Colin Delamore, with pastel green-grey walls and complete with wallpaper dado and picture rails and three door entrances. The furniture spread out across this large stage helped to give it its affluent feel with a large sofa and various tables and chairs dotted around and a wonderful copper bed warming pan ridiculously hanging from the ceiling in the way of anybody going past the sofa, which of course immediately knocked out Drake on arrival. In fact good old fashioned farce in the making. Needless to say Tom Davies and Dave Miles washed the stage lighting with great skill to enhance the effect perfectly.

Then, if you weren’t yet rolling around the aisles, we had the names of the characters to confuse us. We had Mr Butler the guest, Mr Guest the butler, Mr Cook the gardener and Mrs Gardner the cook, not to mention Mr Gagarin, whom Drake called by a different name every time he addressed him and Miss Duck, but lets not go there – LOL!

The characterisations were absolutely splendid. Drake (Tony White) hammed it up brilliantly as the seemingly clueless detective with the most ridiculous false handlebar moustache which came unstuck several times to great comic mirth. Peter Sellers would have been proud. Mark Croft as Sergeant Plod, was a laugh a minute, again with a false moustache, albeit a lot smaller, which again not only came unstuck but ended up at all sorts of angles above his top lip. At one time I was thinking Dixon of Dock Green meets Benny Hill, hilarious stuff! Well done to the Costume department in the hands of Sheena Ward.

Our corpse Mrs Gagarin (Jan Murray) began proceedings by entering from the auditorium with a large flash light and disappeared in total darkness with a loud scream, only to reappear in the final scene and give us (spoiler alert) our final, final twist.  

Randall Moll as Mr Gagarin her son was a great foil to Drake and actually had some wonderful repartee as they spoofed their way through the plot.  Tracey Chatterley as Miss Duck almost provided some sanity, whilst fending off Sergeant Plod as he misinterprets orders to search her and other not so polite instructions.

We spent most of the play wondering why Mr Butler, the guest (Colin Delamore) was wearing odd shoes, one grey and one red if memory serves me right..?  Jason Neale as a very doddery Mr Guest, the butler was of course the most unlikely, likely suspect, and Colin Aldous as Mr Cook the Gardener died a splendid death on the sofa, or rather we thought he did but how remains a mystery.  And not forgetting Jan Delamore as Mrs Gardner the Cook lurking about. All of whom at one time or another are accused by Drake. Wonderful stuff, farce of the highest order. Meanwhile we have a ‘maid’ come in and vacuum and nobody notices! She then turned out to be the vicar’s daughter, Mary Ship (Lelia O’Connell) who has a sub plot agenda all of her own. And to complete our cast we had Edwina Osborne and Bob Kempster as Mr and MRs Kemist (the neighbours) and as stretcher bearers.

Then we rewound back to the beginning and saw the dastardly plot actually unfold to see who has really done it. Well actually not quite. I hope you are all keeping up with this! Then of course there was the final, final twist which nobody saw coming.

So what a wonderful evenings entertainment this was, LBDG have a great habit of picking slightly quirky, off the wall dramas and this was no exception. So well done indeed to Director, Barbara Springthorpe for yet another in a long line. Absolutely top notch! I went on to the NODA website and searched for previous reviews of Inspector Drake’s Last Case. None came up, so this may well be its first NODA review. That’s how unique this group are!

And of course, thank you to Barbara and LBDG for your usually splendid hospitality, always a venue we look forward to visiting.