The super trouper had just eight days to learn the script and three rehearsals after the originally cast performer broke his arm.
There were no signs that Richard had so little time to prepare and if we hadn’t been told prior to curtain up last night (Wednesday, we would have been clueless.
Richard puts in a sparkling performance as the delightfully inept Inspector Pratt - or abominable Pratt as he’s dubbed by his work colleagues - in the comedy thriller Secondary Cause of Death. Imagine a British version of Inspector Clouseau, accident-prone, oblivious to reality and with a knack of misquoting sayings and getting people’s names wrong. Little wonder, then, that Richard was applauded by cast members and the audience at the end of the first night.
The show by Denys Edwards Players is a spoof on an Agatha Christie murder-mystery in which colourful characters aren’t what they seem, the body count mounts and an amateur sleuth tries to help a professional solve the crimes.
Sue McCormick plays Cynthia Maple, the sister of an infinitely more famous wannabe sleuth, putting in a convincing performance as the little old lady whose mind is as sharp as her knitting needles as she stitches together the clues.
The cast is brimming with talent. Rob Calnan puts his all into the dual roles of retired colonel and flamboyant actor, Rosie Chappin makes a spiffing Hooray Henrietta army captain and Janet Black adds to the intrigue as the Yorkshire housekeeper who is working undercover.
Set on the brink of the Second World War, the characters discuss how they will dispense with the Germans and Gary Jarvis brings a laudable take-off of Adolf Hitler to his role as a foreign member of the aristocracy.
The British upper-class is represented well by Jan Ibberson as the myterious Lady Isadora Pollock.
Cameo roles by Danni Hibbert playing a maid and Angela Blackwell as the colonel’s nurse add to this amusing thriller.
The action is played out in the oak-panelled living room of a country house with all the trappings of wealth to catch the eye, making the design of the play as much a work of art as the performance.
Secondary Cause of Death is directed by Sue Cox and continues its run at Sheffield’s Library Theatre until Saturday, Aprll 16. Performances are at 7.30pm nightly with a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm.