ONE huge star of The Menlove Avenue Murder Mystery is a superb revolving set.

It is another visually striking and practical creation by the prolific 'Foxton' who is to set design what Banksy is to street art.

Two South Liverpool house exteriors (complete with purple wheelie bins) revolve to show their very different interiors.

One minimal, the other a warm, inviting, cosy Scouse domain.

Gerry Linford's latest play - at Royal Court in Liverpool - looks at family life, new neighbours and what goes on behind the net curtains.

It follows on from the success of his previous Court hits The Miracle of Great Homer Street and Yellow Breck Road.

The titles are Liverpool place names.

So the Court, as well as being the People's Theatre, is now the haven of home-grown.

This curiously titled play comes from a well-known real life murder case in 1931.

But that is where any connection ends.

This third new work from Gerry, highly-commended in the Hope Playwriting Prize in 2017, sees a hat-trick of original concepts.

However, it is not as tightly structured as his previous comedies.

The audience, however, clearly relish the many twists and turns

Inspired by his love of reading the literary characters and while watching the TV detectives, Gerry presents references to his heroes.

You only have to listen to BBC Radio Merseyside's Roger Lyons to know people love to remember TV characters and some in the audience even cheered at the very name of house-hold famous detectives.

The cast of court stalwarts give their usually gung-ho performances.

And it's always a joy to see versatile Pauline Fleming on stage.

Eddie (Paul Duckworth) has taken retirement from Fords and is a part-time care home worker.

He is also an amateur sleuth himself.

One day his next door neighbour dies - and, as luck would have it, his creative writer daughter Phoebe (Olivia Sloyan) has brought her criminology student boyfriend Josh (Michael Peace) home for the holidays.

Eddie and Josh work together on the 'murder.'

A duo of defective detectives.

It has all the potential to become a slick modern farce but often descends into slapstick.

And surely jokes about breaking wind and sight gags about sex aids should be sent to death row.

The sub-plot is the strength of the play as Eddie's solicitor wife Trish (Pauline) wonders why her husband is so clue-less when it comes to their relationship.

Writer Gerry is at his best when exploring the serious side of life.

It is a fast-paced production and director Chris Mellor allows the cast to stamp their own mark while using every theatrical ploy to make it work.

Liam Tobin, a huge success as Sweeney Todd at the Everyman, works hard as both Martin and the legendary Columbo.

Just one more thing ... he has the rain-coated US copper's mannerisms portrayed perfectly.

Cigars all round.

Liam’s frenetic scenes with Greta (Gillian Hardie) provide much of the visual and physical humour.

The Menlove Avenue Murder Mystery is another departure for the ambitious Royal Court.

It is encouraging to see new writing at both their upstairs and downstairs venues.

Quirky whodunnit - three stars

Until September 21.

0151 709 4321