I had not seen the film that inspired this production, though I have seen enough clips to have an acquaintance with the investigatory legend that is Jaques Clouseau. I think the only 'spin off' from film or television I've seen is 'Acorn Antiques -the Musical' and it was mainly because of a fascination about the way that this sort of film would work out on stage that I travelled the 60-plus miles (a slave to Thespis that I am) to the Guildhall Arts Centre's fine little theatre.
Overall this is a very funny show - though it needs a very strong actor to take on the role of the extraordinary Chief Inspector Clouseau. The plot is straightforward. The insane Chief Inspector Dreyfus, Clouseau's old boss, now ensconced in a mental hospital, makes his escape and is bent on murdering his old colleague. First he tries planting a bomb in his flat but it does not work. His next plan is far more ambitious as he kidnaps Professor Hugo Fassbender and forces him to build a doomsday machine. Clouseau goes to England to investigate the kidnap, going on to the Munich Oktoberfest. All the time his steps are dogged by a Soviet agent, Olga Berriosova. At the final showdown Clouseau unwittingly persuades Dreyfus not to kill him by saying that he and his 'old friend' will meet in eternity. Faced with this, Dreyfus turns the doomsday machine on himself. The final scene sees the romantic reunion of Olga and Jaques.
Along the way Clouseau disguises himself as a hunchback only to find himself being given an award by ...another man disguised as a hunchback... , leaves his colleagues in the UK police bemused, witnesses the death of a drag queen (who moonlights from his day job as a butler to Prof Fassbender), is subject to a multinational assasination attempt at the Oktoberfest...and so on....
Grantham Dramatic Society made a good job of this show.
Without doubt its star was Steve Sale as Clouseau. Steve is described in the programme as a stalwart of the Grantham stage - hardly surprising, given his performance in this show. He had lots and lots of lines, all spoken in with a French accent complete with deliberate mispronounciations and malapropisms, delivered with fine comic timing.
Tony Lane was a pleasingly nutty Dreyfus. In a totally natural (and funny) performance he was an excellent foil to Clouseau.
Tami Brown played the role of Olga Berriosiva with relish - she clearly enjoyed her part as the special agent who finds it so hard to make a choice between her duty (to kill Clouseau) and her love for the detective.
Almost all other members of the cast played multiple roles, the most notable actors being Paul Meakin and Simon Johnson.
I am sure the directors were aware of this but a downside of this adaptation from a film is that there are many, many separate scenes - one or two only a minute long - and between each there was a blackout. I think the company coped well with this as black drapes were used as a backdrop and the scene change usually involved a quick change of furmiture. I have to admit that I began to tire of this towards the end. If this show were done by a professional company I assume they would be dropping items down or using a trapdoor device to bring the bed (used several times) up and down. I only mention this because it does lay down a tricky challenge to an amateur company - though I must compliment GDS on the way they made this work with the resources available.
Secondly - and this may be a reflection on me as a bit of an old fart when it comes to some aspects of theatre - whilst I enjoy ad libs in comedy they can get a bit self-indulgent and I felt this to be the case on the (last) night when I saw the show. Comedy is a serious business!
That said The Pink Panther Strikes Again is an unusual, interesting and very funny show. On the whole, I thought the Grantham Dramatic Society did the show proud!
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