The Lollipop Man

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Over the last year, the majority of us have had spare time on our hands. Some of us have got fitter, some of us have tackled the bookshelves that feature prominently on our zoom quiz backgrounds, and some of us have done sweet FA. However, one thing I can pretty much guarantee, is that at some point over the last 12 months most of us will have been sucked into a good TV murder mystery. It may have been one of Netflix’s countless true crime documentaries, the BBC’s Line of Duty, or ITV’s The Bay; at some point we’ll have been shocked or screaming at the telly, uttering that immortal line, “I knew it was him!”

Well the good people at Unsolved Online Creations, have tapped into our blood lust with their first offering, The Lollipop Man? The brainchild of Stacey Harcourt and John O’Neill, this interactive, online murder mystery, provides something a little different to ease the lock down blues while putting our newly found amateur sleuthing skills to good use.

Set at the turn of the millennium in Salford, local lollipop man Martin Morris, is found brutally murdered by the Irwell, with a list of subjects as long as his luminous stick. Suspects include, the dead man’s daughter, Kayla Morris (Stacey Harcourt), or maybe local thug, Paul Cheadle, (John O’Neill) or could it be a lifelong friend of Martin’s, Mandy Newton (Fiona Boylan)?  These are just three of the eight suspects.

Each suspect gives their accounts of this fateful night, spread over several nights on the Unsolved Online Creations, Youtube channel, (https://bit.ly/3bsOWYj) these come in the form of short police interrogation interviews. In addition, new evidence is also released containing clues (or red herrings) as to whom the culprit might be.

This is a fun, innovative way to spend some time each week. Like any good murder-mystery, it keeps you on your toes. We’re three weeks in and I’m still non the wiser. You can pick it up any time, as all videos are on Youtube: I only started last week and am hooked.

It is a bold attempt to do something fresh. The performances are solid throughout, nothing fancy or OTT, just believable and intriguing enough to draw you in. The police questions that move the action forward can be a little jarring at times, and I wish more time and care had been spent on how they are delivered, but this is a minor quibble for what is an ambitious project, which on the whole wants to create conversation, debate and, most of all, a community and the chance to use the internet for something other than a zoom quiz!

The Lollipop Man? is online and can be found at: https://unsolvedonline.blogspot.com

Rebus: Long Shadows

Rebus_Cathy Tyson as Siobhan Clarke & Charles Lawson as Rebus_c Robert Day (2)

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

After appearing in 19 novels, numerous audio books, and a TV series, it seems long overdue for writer Ian Rankin’s most celebrated creation, Inspector Rebus to make it to the stage, and boy was it worth the wait.

Rankin and playwright Rona Munro have created a brand new case for the now retired Rebus (Charles Lawson). He spends his time trying to stay off the ‘fags and the booze’, but one drug he still cannot shake is that of good, old-fashioned policing. A chance encounter with Heather (Eleanor House), a young woman whose mother was murdered some 17 years ago brings up some ghosts of the past, forcing the ‘old gunslinger’ out of retirement and maybe a chance to exorcise some of his own personal demons as well.

Haunted by these past victims, this particular cold case takes Rebus back into Edinburgh’s criminal world, landing at the door of his old nemesis, crime kingpin ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty (John Stahl). In addition, Rebus must contend with Siobhan Clarke (Cathy Tyson), a friend and former colleague who wants to make sure a case from 25 years ago doesn’t come back to haunt them both.

Rebus_John Stahl as Cafferty_C Robert Day

Rebus: Long Shadows  is almost the perfect storm of a production, fast paced, slick, and razor-sharp script with some stinging, pitch black dialogue. Lawson is excellent as the no nonsense troubled former detective, who will do anything to get the right result, even if it means breaking the rules. Stahl is on superb form as Cafferty, full of charm and menace; he certainly makes for a worthy adversary. The interactions between the two are natural and fully demonstrate the respect and loathing they have for one another.

Cathy Tyson is equally as good, if somewhat underutilized as Siobhan Clarke: her character seems the weakest in the triangular relationship between Rebus, Clarke and Cafferty. The supporting cast are on fine form with Eleanor House and Dani Heron as the ghosts of Rebus’s past plaguing him at every turn: whilst Neil McKinven morphs into every other character, from Barman to criminal low life, he plays them all: enjoyable are the scenes between Mckinven and Lawson, where Rebus is shaking him down for information: authentic, believable and filled with humour.

Rebus_Cathy Tyson as Siobhan Clarke & Charles Lawson as Rebus_c Robert Day

Occasionally the story becomes a little contrived, but there are a few neat twists and turns: this isn’t a ‘whodunnit’ in the traditional sense, more a tale of redemption, morality, and growing old in an ever-changing world.

Ti Green’s multi-purpose stage design is outstanding: it changes effortlessly from luxury apartment, to dingy back street boozer. It does a fine job of evoking images of Edinburgh’s snickets and passageways: if anything, you want it to be more dank, mysterious and atmospheric.

This is a first-class production with actors at the top of the game: Rebus may be long in the tooth, but this production could certainly teach other murder/mysteries a thing or two.

Rebus: Long Shadow is at the Manchester Opera House till 3rd November 2018. Tickets are available here.

Rehearsal for Murder

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From the writers of Murder, She Wrote, Richard Levinson and William Link and produced by Bill Kenwright, Rehearsal for Murder arrives at the Opera House for a week long run. With an all-star cast the show is a well-acted and entertaining whodunnit that will have you scratching your head and realising what a dreadful Detective you’d make!

With numerous plot twists and a good dollop of red herrings Rehearsal for Murder creates suspense and intrigue along the way. Alex Ferns most famously known for playing psychotic Trevor in Eastenders plays Alex Dennison, a writer who exactly one year ago on opening night tragically lost his future bride and leading lady of his new play, Monica Wells, Susie Amy. Monica dies in suspicious circumstances after the opening night party following a mysterious phone call. Convinced she was in fact murdered Alex sets the scene to replay events of that night with all who were involved in order to discover what really happened.

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Set inside an empty theatre the play uses a series of flashbacks to retell the story to great effect; the cast give strong performances with Ferns delivering delightfully unhinged grieving fiancé to great effect. Anita Harris makes for a fine theatre producer, in the role of Bella Lamb, dramatic, sassy and fabulous darling! Former Emmerdale favourite Peter Amory gives a great performance as David Mathews, a slightly seedy leading man….or so we are lead to believe. And of course where there is a leading lady there has to be a fame hungry starlet waiting in the wings, Sophie Powels plays Monica’s understudy Karen Daniels, could the opportunity of seeing her name in lights lead her to commit the crime?

Lighting designer Douglas Kuhrt has done a fine job in adding to the mysterious atmosphere and chillingly lights our deceased leading lady as she appears silently on stage reminding us why we’re here. Rehearsal for Murder is a gentle evening of murder mystery and as the suspense intensifies the calibre of the cast can be seen, a very well-acted and enjoyable production. So…..whodunnit? Well you’ll have to go and see it to find out!

Tuesday 11th October-Saturday 15th October, Opera House, Manchester

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/rehearsal-for-murder/opera-house-manchester/