Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

farndale murder

Jon Flowers, Katie Brown, Katy Ball and Amy Cooper

The Farndale Avenue Murder Mystery

The Nonentities

The Swan Theatre, Kidderminster


Murder Mystery, is one of ten plays written By David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jnr. They all focus on the stereotypical view of Amateur theatre and specifically that run by a group of ladies from an imaginary Townswomen’s Guild.

It’s a play whereby the play they are attempting to perform goes horribly wrong. Lines are forgotten, even several pages of script are omitted, props fall apart, sound effects arrive before or after the cues, costumes are mislaid, and it’s an evening of total incompetence.

Of course getting things wrong perfectly, is an art in getting it right and to do so means you need a degree of skill. Fortunately first time Director Tony Newbould and Jen Eglington, just about manage to keep things on track to the final curtain. Likewise the cast remember to forget everything perfectly and if they didn’t you would never know if it was real or scripted.

So the ladies have set about staging an Agatha Christie type Murder Mystery and the leader of this dramatic clan is Mrs Phoebe Reece, played joyously to excess by Amy Cooper. Like most of the cast, she appears as several other characters, as each of the guests of Checkmate Manor is mysteriously put to death by an unknown assailant. At times the timing or mistiming was not quite timed as well as it should have been timed , but thankfully Miss Coopers experience managed to lift the actual chaos into more organised scripted chaos and chaotically keep things going.  

farndale murder 2

Jon Flowers Katie Brown and Katy Ball

Another Guild lady, Thelma Greenwood played by Katy Ball, is set to steal the limelight from Mrs Reece. Katy, again in several other roles namely that of Lady Bishops daughter Rose, had some of her funniest moments with Stage manager Gordon, who had been drafted in to play the part of Inspector O’Reilly and I mean in the ladies play, not the play we were watching if you follow.

Gordon was played by relative Nonentities newcomer, Jonathan Flowers and alongside Katy Ball had the task at one point of delivering a song and dance routine from the musical Grease. Of course they performed it badly, which meant they did it well, I think?

Katie Brown as Audrey Forbes Farquhar and again a variety of other roles, but principally as Lady Bishop was suitably over melodramatic and was skilfully non plussed in all the right places. Called upon to act out corpseing over her lines at one point, it genuinely seemed hard to imagine that that was not happening for real, more often for everyone.

Jessica Bishop, which is the actors’ real name and not to be confused with the plays Bishops household, took the part of Felicity, who in turn then played Pawn the Butler and various other roles.Jessica is another young member of the company’s team and acquitted her performance with confidence.

It was a fine thing to see the theatre at almost full capacity again, and the relaxing of social distancing rules adding to a sense of ease throughout the evening. Murder Mystery is a real fun filled chaotic evening of slapstick physical comedy and whilst there are no laughs to be had at the petrol pumps at this time, you will find plenty here to fill up on. To 02-10-21

Jeff Grant


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