Opening night at the Ensemble was a disaster for brand new play, Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall. Six cast members called in sick at the last minute, the remaining actors and a ring-in performed like amateurs. Thankfully, it was all part of the show.
Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall is a farcical parody of the fraught, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature of amateur theatre. Written by Mark Kilmurry (who also directs) and Jamie Oxenbould (who also performs), the self-reflexive show realises the worst nightmare of any actor or theatre worker.
The fictional Middling Cove Players are an amateur acting company who take themselves very seriously. Oxenbould plays Barney, a pretentious wannabe whose braggadocio leads him to over-commit and under-deliver and handle it all by swigging repeatedly from a hip flask.
Sam O’Sullivan is Shane, the director. He is intense and a little obsequious. It is his own play that is being debuted tonight. Not only that, but he has been made aware that several local councillors and the mayor will be in the audience, using this performance to assess whether its worth continuing to fund a local theatre.
Eloise Snape plays Phillipa, a middle-aged woman from the suburbs who seems to see herself as an undiscovered Cate Blanchett.
And Ariadne Sgouros is Karen, an intimidating stage manager who is there because she’s doing community service for some misdemeanour that is never disclosed.
Determined that the show must go on, Shane volunteers to perform and recruits Karen. Shane, Karen, Phillipa and Barney then distribute the 13 or so characters among themselves.
It is, of course, complete mayhem and jolly good fun. Prop flops, costume malfunctions, forgotten lines, missed cues all converge to create a perfect storm — actually, cyclone.
Oxenbould, it must be said, steals the show with his vaudevillian hamminess and gradual inebriation, however, the whole troupe are hilarious in their own right.
This is a light, humorous, inoffensive show that everyone will enjoy…unless you belong to a community theatre group and are about to put on a show, in which case: trigger warning.