Murder Blues (BBC1)

BLACK gun crime is often in the headlines but it takes a series like this to bring home the full horror of the problem. Tale Of Two Cities followed officers from Trident, the Metropolitan Police's elite squad investigating shootings within black communities, as they probed the shooting of a 19-year-old in South London and the arrest of a drug importer that led them to Jamaica.

That island's capital, Kingston, and Brixton are inextricably linked. Kingston is one of the world's most dangerous cities where gangs rule by the gun and three murders occur every day.

People are divided into the rich elite who live uptown and those living in abject poverty downtown. Many of those leave to find work abroad and Brixton is a natural draw. But four out of ten youths are unemployed and some go into armed gangs to earn quick cash for dealing drugs.

In London, 56 young black people have been shot dead over the past three years. The programme followed officers investigating the murder of one of them, Kevon Forsythe, 19. Witnesses were reluctant to speak in a society where a gun is worn like a fashion accessory and firearms used to settle petty disputes and disrespect issues.

A second strand followed the arrest of the boss of a huge drug empire bringing cocaine from Jamaica to the UK. Police reckoned he cleared £1m a year. The investigation didn't end with his arrest, which we saw in police footage. With him in prison, gun crime fell, which fits in with Trident's policy to take troublemakers off the street as a preventive measure.

They're also determined to "take the glamour out of crime", believing that no drug dealer should be allowed to profit and come home to a nice nest egg in the bank on release from prison. It was just a case of finding the imprisoned drugs lord's wealth. We followed police as they tried to trace his cash and property on a trail that led them to Kingston.

Last year 1,088 people were murdered there. Trident officers are now helping the Jamaican constabulary, who lack the experience and skill to deal with the vast amount of crime.

Back home, a spate of gun crime in South London - two murders and 13 other shootings in a six day period - at the start of 2005 found Trident fearing matters were getting out of control, although officers emphasised only a small percentage of the community was acting outside the law. The rest of the people came together to work with the police in stamping out the gun culture.

The programme, as well as police, got lucky when a suspect arrived back at his house unexpectedly while they were waiting outside. Despite the lack of armed officers and not knowing if he had a gun, they decided to try to arrest him. The cameras witnessed it all. Reality series don't get much more real than that.

Glorious, Newcastle Theatre Royal

SO what is a theatre critic to do when faced with a tribute to the world's worst singer? While Les Dawson's pathetic piano playing and Tommy Cooper's mishap magic hid true genius, this is Maureen Lipman effervescing to the point of comedic explosion as the incredibly bad US classical performer Florence Foster Jenkins. Peter Quilter's new play, ultimately destined for the West End, supplies wicked camp comedy and a cast of over-the-top characters, including a Fawltyesque Spanish servant. Strangely, the laughter ripples rather than roars and there's no danger of people being carried out almost unconscious with mirth, as in the case of Tallula Bankhead who was among a 3,000 sell-out crowd at the Carnegie Hall in the 1940s. This little-known foreign eccentric may not strike a chord with UK audiences but Lipman, given the ammunition of the Laughing Song by Strauss, earns every atom of applause that's going. William Oxborrow supplies a beautifully judged portrayal of closet gay pianist Cosme McMoon. Barrie Ingham, as Florence's boyfriend; Josie Kidd, as batty friend Dorothy, and Lolly Susi, who makes the mistake of trying to denounce Florence, are convincing cameos.

The 'so bad it's good' tagline doesn't work here because Florence was convinced she was a top soprano and didn't understand the laughter. Perhaps adding a running commentary from Professor Stanley Unwin is the answer.

* Runs until Saturday. Box Office: 0870 905 5060

Viv Hardwick

Don't Dress For Dinner, Middlesbrough Theatre

THE final play in the Middlesbrough Theatre rep season had audiences roaring with laughter - and it wasn't just the comedy script which set them off.

While a few first night nerves are expected with any performance this had more slip-ups than most. But the constant corpsing and tongue tangles just added to the comedy effect of this production. The props may have been faulty and the set may have wobbled, but the audience just loved it even more.

In a converted country barn in France, man of the house Bernard is planning a naughty weekend with his mistress while his unsuspecting wife is visiting her mother. But his wife isn't quite the innocent victim she appears to be. As her own secret affair is revealed the usual mistaken identities escalate into absolute confusion as everyone tries to conceal their infidelities.

Damian Williams is extremely engaging and hugely funny as best man Robert, who is almost caught out with his friend's wife but manages to cover it up with increasingly outlandish explanations. His spontaneous ad libs, asides and comical expressions are excellent and the high point of the show.

Together with Andrew Lynford (Bernard) the pair almost descend into panto at some points, giggling like two naughty schoolboys.

An excellent cast and a fun script make this a highly entertaining evening.

* Runs until Saturday. Box Office: (01642) 815181

Michelle Hedger