The Pink Panther Strikes Again was the fifth film in the Pink Panther series, written by Blake Edwards. The film premiered in 1976, starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling inspector Jacques Clouseau and Herbet Lom as Charles Dreyfuss. Although it certainly worked as a stand-alone story, fans of the previous Pink Panther films would appreciate the long history between these two characters that lead to the plot of The Pink Panther Strikes Again.

As a long time fan of both the Pink Panther films and Peter Sellers, I admit I was a tad concerned when the play first started and four people dressed in pink panther onesies appeared. However, it soon became clear these pink panther characters had an important role to play and, in fact, enhanced the production.

Unlike the usually detailed and elaborate sets regular patrons of the 1812 Theatre would be accustomed to, The Pink Panther Strikes Again starts with a completely bare and black set. With the large number of scene changes in the story line, the “pink panthers” act as stage hands, quickly moving props and sets on and off the stage, with surprising speed and efficiency and without detracting from the story.

The set, designed by Neil Barnett, cleverly adds enough detail to create the scene as well as adding some more moments of humour. Some incredible painted sets, by Gill Carkeek, immediately transport the audience to places like Paris, France or Bavaria, Germany.

But where this play really succeeds is in the casting. The cast of twenty-one includes quite a number of performers who first started out in Centrestage (the youth theatre of the 1812 Theatre) as well as some older performers, but all with considerable experience. However, the standout performances in this production are by Brett Hyland as Inspector Clouseau and Rowan Francis as Charles Dreyfuss, both already well known to regular patrons of the 1812 Theatre.

Brett Hyland is an exceptionally talented actor with impeccable comic timing and his portrayal of Inspector Jacques Clouseau is simply brilliant. Hyland brings the essence of Peter Sellers but creates his own interpretation of the character. As his nemesis, Rowan Francis is delightfully villainous as the tormented former Chief Inspector and gives an equally strong, standout performance. The pair are a pleasure to watch and do justice to these iconic characters.

It was clear who amongst the audience were already familiar with the movie of The Pink Panther Strikes Again, with very early laughter as a memory would be triggered of what was about to unfold in the scene. This play adaptation ends differently to the film (anyone who remembers the film ending would appreciate why it needed to be changed for the stage!) but it works well to segue into the curtain call.

Pink Panther

Taking a film to a stage adaptation is never an easy task, but under the skillful direction of Dexter Bourke, the 1812 Theatre have managed to pull it off. This is a clever adaptation and fans of the original film will not be disappointed (and yes, the well-loved Pink Panther theme by Henry Mancini is included).

The Pink Panther Strikes Again is a thoroughly entertaining night of theatre for audiences of all ages, guaranteed to give you a laugh, and if you’re old enough to remember the original film version, stir up some hilarious memories.

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