Father Brown—The Murderer in the Mirror

John Goodrum, adapted from the mysteries of G K Chesterton
Tabs Productions and Theatre Royal Nottingham
Theatre Royal, Nottingham

John Goodrum (Mundon Mandeville), Karen Henson (Miriam Mandeville) and John Lyons (Father Brown)
John Lyons (Father Brown) and Karen Henson (Miriam Mandeville)
John Lyons (Father Brown) and John Goodrum (Mundon Mandeville)

The fictional Roman Catholic priest Father Brown appeared in 53 stories published between 1910 and 1936. In recent years, the character’s popularity has risen mainly due to Mark Williams’s portrayal of the amateur detective on BBC Television.

John Goodrum of Rumpus Theatre Company realised that G K Chesterton’s creation was greatly admired and in 2016 he came up with Father Brown—The Curse of the Invisible Man.

Now Goodrum has penned a second tale, Father Brown—The Murderer in the Mirror which is one of the plays in the 2021 Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.

Goodrum specialises in taking works from famous writers and turning them into plays that his company can take on tour. His more recent writings include The Black Veil, based on a Charles Dickens short story, The Ghost’s Touch! which started life as a Wilkie Collins short novel and Sherlock Holmes—The Scandal of the Scarlet Woman, a production in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Father Brown—The Murderer in the Mirror involves a famous producer being found dead just before the opening of his latest West End show. Father Brown is invited to watch the dress rehearsal which is cut short when two shots are fired.

Father Brown discovers a shattered mirror in the producer’s dressing room and decides that not everything is as it seems. He has to work out who the murderer is—no easy task when most of the suspects were on stage at the time.

Father Brown is played here by John Lyons, best known as Detective Sergeant George Toolan in the ITV series A Touch of Frost in which he appeared for 18 years alongside David Jason.

I have to confess that Lyons is ideal for the role of the religious man who is a good listener and solves crimes through intuition rather than sifting through physical, incriminating evidence.

The 77-year-old Lyons portrays Father Brown as a clever, caring cleric whose experience of meeting people from all walks of life gives him an unrivalled understanding of human nature.

Goodrum himself plays producer Mundon Mandeville who is concerned that the opening night of his new show may not go ahead because his Italian star has locked herself in her dressing room. A fine performance from Goodrum who was clearly thinking about taking on the role when he wrote the piece.

There are strong contributions from Karen Henson as Miriam Mandeville, Mundon’s wife with secrets she does not want revealed; Christopher Brookes as Norman Knight, the young actor who jumps to all the wrong conclusions when trying to work out who the murderer is; and Lara Lemon as Susie Sands, the stage manager who knows she can do a better job than the unseen Italian actress who cannot remember her lines. The three of them really ham up the rehearsal for the play within a play, giving little doubt as to why Mandeville’s shows were making little money.

David Gilbrook completes the cast as Sam, the stage door keeper, and also designs the sound, building up the tension throughout.

Cosy crime, the genre in which scenes of grotesque violence are frowned on, is derided in some quarters. But if there were more stories like Father Brown—The Murderer in the Mirror, I’m sure audiences would get into the habit of seeing them.

Reviewer: Steve Orme