FeaturedMusicalReviewSouth West

Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder – Bristol Old Vic

Reviewer: Joan Phillips

Book & Lyrics : Jon Brittain

Music & Lyrics : Matthew Floyd Jones

Director : Jon Brittain & Fabian Aloise

Packed with silly songs, from beginning to end with barely a pause or spoken word, Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder follows the story of two friends, Kathy and Stella. The two have shared an obsession with murder from childhood,and attempt to solve local murders while broadcasting their progress through a podcast… It is all rather like a musical version of Disney’s Only Murders in the Building, but set in Hull rather than New York.

The hapless duo set out to solve the case of the grizzly beheading of their podcast idol, Felicia Taylor, another true crime broadcaster. The story follows our eager detectives as they follow the trail of clues and encounter the real police and potential murderers along the way.

Our improbable heroines, played by Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds, are superb as the nervously anxious Kathy and seemingly dominant, yet vulnerable Stella. They belt out a non-stop sequence of very silly songs, with subjects ranging from childhood anxiety, teenage interdependency to serial killers, mortuaries and, even, decapitation. Lyricists John Brittain and Matthew Floyd Jones don’t waste an opportunity to inject humour from any situation – even the Humberside accents. Where else would you hear ‘share’ rhyming with ‘Edinburgh’?

The supporting cast is also excellent. The duo are joined by an entertaining Jodie Jacobs, multi-rolling as Felicia, Felicia’s sister, brother, and the police detective on the case. TJ Lloyd and Imelda Warren-Green also play multiple characters with Warren-Green particularly enjoyable as Erica – a caricature of a gushing over-the-top fan. Jacob Kohli and Sarah Pearson complement the main parts. But which one of them is the murderer?

The music is played live from the wings but as ever with these shows the sound balance makes it sometimes hard to pick up every lyric which is a shame – luckily the evening is loaded with humorous references so there is still much to enjoy.

The podcasters spend much of their time in office chairs on casters, podcasting from Kathy’s mum’s garage with some Pinot and crackers. When they are following the tracks of the suspects the simple set transforms to a bar by simply spinning the garage cupboards round. Or these get pushed out of the way completely for the setting of ‘Murder Con’. Somewhere the girls finally meet people they have a subject in common with.

Despite the subject material the show manages to avoid the dark side of their shared interest, even with a severed head thrown in. With such silly lyrics and comic characters, it is more Scooby Doo than Luther with some great songs thrown in.

Run until 30 September then continues on tour.

The Reviews Hub Score

Superb Sleuthing

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The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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