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posted/updated: 26 Jul 2013 -
Murder Weapon
Brian Clemens. Presented by Talking Scarlet.
society/company: Ashcroft Theatre (Professional) (directory)
performance date: 25 Jul 2013
venue: Ashcroft Theatre, Fairfield Halls, Park Lane, Croydon CR9 1DG
reviewer/s: Diana Eccleston (Sardines review)

There's nothing thriller fans love more than a new case to crack. So it was a great occasion for the Ashcroft's band of armchair sleuths when Talking Scarlet presented the second in their trilogy of summer murder mysteries: a world premiere called Murder Weapon.
To add to the sense of occasion, the play was written by Croydon-born Brian Clemens, a veteran writer and producer of an extensive catalogue of TV work including The Avengers and The Professionals. And among the cast was his son Samuel.

The scene was set in the living room of Dysart Hall in 'the recent past'. Here Diane returns home one evening, with her friend Jessica after attending a choral society event, to find her husband slumped in a chair with three bullets through his chest.

Jessica, it turns out, just happens to be the new Chief Constable of the area and embarks there and then on solving the case.

This is just one of several unlikely occurrences, such as police officers questioning a suspect at the scene of the crime (without a lawyer present) then accidentally allowing the dead man's wife to walk in and smack him round the head with her handbag; everyone wandering about at the scene of the crime with no forensic presence; police officers drinking on duty and Jessica thinking a landline phone ringing after midnight at the crime scene might be a call for her. No mobile then? And would such a high ranking (or any) police officer who was a personal friend of the apparent victim really get involved in solving such a murder case? It hardly seems protocol.

And as for 'recent past', the piece does have a slightly dated feel, more like a 1970s style than a product of 2012 when it was penned.

I was very impressed by Philip Stewart's portrayal of ex-con Charley Mirren, just released after a ten year stretch for murdering his wife and kids and now found with a gun in his hand over the dead body of Paul Tulliver.

His violent physical nervous tics and twitches were beautifully maintained throughout, though there was never an explanation as to why he suffered from them.

Jessica (an elegant Claire Vousden) and her sidekick the bluff Inspector Fremont (John Hester playing up the comedy side of the role) get to the truth via a succession of flashbacks and re-enactments and Jessica quickly susses that this is not the open and shut case they had first expected.

Samuel Clemens was the enigmatic psychiatrist (or was he?) asking improbable questions - but why was Charley at the shrink's the day after coming out of prison? Another unanswered question.

Despite some strange incongruities, which certainly need tweaking, Murder Weapon does make for an entertaining evening. We found it fairly predictable and pretty much kept up with all the twists of the plot, so maybe a sense of smugness added to our enjoyment.

Next week the same company present the Francis Durbridge golden oldie Suddenly At Home.

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