House of Ghosts
Inspector Morse is alive and kicking – at least in the only play to feature Colin Dexter’s curmudgeonly police inspector written exclusively for the stage.
Already a contributor to four series of ITV’s most successful ever detective programme, author Alma Cullen has not just brought the great man back from the dead, but located him in his mid-40s, allowing flashbacks to his Oxford student days and calling up the ghosts of the title from his uneasy past.
The pretence is underlined, in rather overwrought fashion, by providing a theatrical setting for his formidable powers of observation. Morse, made suitably erudite but still something of a loner by Nigel Fairs, is in the audience at a performance of Hamlet when the young actor playing Ophelia dies in mid-scene. The stage immediately becomes a murder scene, with Ivan Wilkinson’s long-suffering Detective Sergeant Lewis on hand to keep his old boss in order.
Cullen’s murder plot follows the Dexter pattern of making every character a suspect, although without the same level of credibility. She does score, though, not only in parading many of Morse’s familiar foibles, but also by fleshing out his character with unexpected revelations about his early love life and why he left college after only a year.
Director Adam Morley and the seven other players do well to keep the myriad of short scenes flowing smoothly, without the benefit of the fading in and out so beloved of television drama.