A cold night, a stone cottage on a Cumbrian moor, a chill wind and a
murder mystery. Glenn Chandler is best known as the writer of the
long-running Scottish TV police procedural series Taggart and
his The Lamplighters initially seems to be treading that same
well-worn path. Suddenly though, it veers off into very different
territory, providing a superior psychological study of the
far-reaching effects of a miscarriage of justice.
Frank (Mark Forester-Evans), John (Shane Armstrong) and Alan (Stewart
Marquis) are former police officers who were involved in investigating
the murder of a woman and her two young children on the moors, not far
from Frank's family cottage.
Every year on the anniversary of the
murder, the three meet to revisit the crime scene, and every year they
find a wreath laid at the spot where the brutal murders took place.
With the initial suspect released on appeal after ten years'
imprisonment, the case remains unsolved, and the detectives are left
to confront their actions and their guilt in how they handled the
case, a case which resulted in them losing their jobs.
Forester-Evans, Armstrong and Marquis are totally convincing as the
drunk (Frank), the bully (John) and the stroke victim (Alan).
Stereotypes of hard-nosed cops they may be, but The
Lamplighters goes beneath this to explore their human failings.
These failings are brought into sharp focus by the arrival of Jo, a
crime historian, played by Tara Howard with a cool detachment and
Billy Tuttle, a young man who has also been visiting the crime scene.
Scott Oswald is quite brilliant as Billy, all nervy vulnerability and
clearly keeping secrets he has yet to reveal.
The dialogue between the three men crackles with authenticity.
There's a bit too much exposition, especially in the second act when,
ostensibly for Alan's benefit, John gives a quick-fire and lengthy
recap of everything that has happened. While this could be said to
fit with John's rapidly deteriorating emotional state, it does jar and
provokes a giggle from the audience at what is otherwise a serious
moment. And Frank repeats that he'd forgotten Jo was coming far more
times than is really necessary, even if his drinking is causing
short-term memory loss.
David Shields' set, the untidy and disgustingly dirty kitchen of the
solitary drunk, provides the perfect chilly atmosphere, as does
Richard Lambert's lighting and the eerie music. With excellent
performances, and a great twist, this is definitely a production worth
braving the chill Spring weather for.