Theatre is just one of the many industries to have taken a big hit from the Covid pandemic. Doors have been closed to Basingstoke’s Anvil and Haymarket for well over a year now. The empty buildings have had to find other uses - The Anvil was a testing centre until just a few weeks ago and the Haymarket was recently used to stage a council meeting.

So when I heard that June was to see the first live performance in Basingstoke since the easing of restrictions, I was delighted and just had to be there.

Father Brown - The Murderer in the Mirror stars John Lyons as the titular priest who dabbles on the side with solving murders. So what a stroke of luck when he happened to be in a theatre watching the dress rehearsal when director Mundon Mandeville, played by John Goodrum, was shot in his dressing room.

Without even thinking twice, Father Brown gets to work hunting down the clues and bringing the audience along with him in playing detective. The performance, whilst it may start out slow as the backstory is laid and the characters are introduced, quickly becomes absorbing as the characters come to terms with their boss’s demise.

With most of the suspects on stage at the time of the gunshots, Father Brown has his work cut out getting to the bottom of the mystery. But John Lyons, as you would expect, has a commanding presence on stage. The A Touch of Frost star takes us, the audience, through his thought processes, but is not afraid to allow his co-stars to explain themselves away as the finger is pointed at them.

Also starring Karen Henson, Christopher Brookes, David Gilbrook and Lara Lemon, the small cast adds to the vibe of watching on in a authentic, small theatre, but easily hold their own when the spotlight is thrown their way.

In the end, we get the satisfaction of finding out just whodunnit, and whilst I was able to work out the murderer before they were revealed, as well as the motive and the means, it is impressive on the part of the writers that it did not detract from the overall experience of the show.

But above all, how great is it that theatre is back once more?!

Father Brown - The Murderer in the Mirror goes to Peterborough, Lincoln and Chesterfield next month, before resuming the tour around Shanklin, Billingham, Blackpool, Chelmsford, Stourport and Winchester in February, March and April 2022.