Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool
5 – 21 September 2019; 2hr 15min
For starters, you need to know that the Menlove Avenue Murder Mystery is a very funny play. In the relaxed atmosphere of Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre, the Scouse humour of the play’s main character, Eddie (Paul Duckworth) and others is much appreciated.
Writer Gerry Linford, a proud Scouser himself, developed the idea from his early obsession with the crime fiction of writers such as Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and Earl Stanley Gardener, an interest later enhanced by television sleuths such as Columbo, who pops up here (Liam Tobin) to support Eddie's investigation of the suspected murder of his next-door neighbour, Martin (also Liam Tobin). Tobin's depiction of dialects covering many parts of the UK is a virtuoso performance much appreciated by the audience.
Directed by Chris Mellor, the play’s action is fast paced and the dramatic tension between comedy and near-tragedy excellent. The whole family becomes involved in Eddie’s investigation, which almost ends in tragedy – but this is a comedy, so all is resolved with a little help from Columbo.
The relationship between Eddie and his wife Trish, (Pauline Fleming) - particularly their sexual relationship, or lack of it - is played with a seriousness and sensitivity that can sit a little uneasily with the general tone of the play. This is in sharp contrast to Martin’s wife Greta (Gillian Hardie), portrayed as a sexual predator and possible murderer - a role she clearly relishes. Eddie and Trish’s student daughter, Phoebe (Olivia Sloyan), and boyfriend Josh (Michael Peace) make the most of their roles as love’s young dream.