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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey

"Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre

In “Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder!” at the Bristol Old Vic theatre the two loveable misfits are best friends from childhood who have set up Hull’s least successful true-crime podcast. Now adults, their lives are drifting but their podcast, based on exhaustive research on Wikipedia, keeps them going.


Suddenly, they become “part of the story” after their hero and leading true-crime podcaster Felicia Taylor is murdered, propelling them into investigating her death as well as the connected cold case of the Hull Decapitator.


Can they crack the case and become global podcast superstars before the killer strikes again? This mini-musical about two lonely women and their shambolic true-crime podcast is comedy gold - raucously funny, with tender moments between the two best friends as well.


After a hugely successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder!, created by creative team behind the award-winning Fleabag, has arrived in Bristol Old Vic for a two-week run.


The music and lyrics by Matthew Floyd Jones are sharp, smart and upbeat and memorable highlights include “If I Didn’t Have You (I Would Die)”, “We Don’t Know What We’re Doing (F**k)” and the title song, “Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder”.


The five-strong cast – are excellent, led by Bronté Barbé as the sweet but determined Kathy and Rebekah Hinds as the more forthright Stella. Jodie Jacobs, TJ Lloyd and Imelda Warren-Green play other roles, with Jacobs brilliantly adding to the show’s pleasures in a multiplicity of parts including Felicia Taylor. The show is slick with a pace that never flags, making it as much a thrilling whodunnit as a delightful piece of musical theatre.


Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds complement each other perfectly in the roles of Kathy and Stella, respectively. Barbe’s Kathy is anxious and insecure, while Hinds’ Stella is outspoken, confident and loud, hilarious in her deadpan delivery.


Both are incredible vocalists and their voices blend seamlessly together throughout the show. They belt out a non-stop sequence of songs, with subjects ranging from childhood anxiety, teenage interdependency to serial killers, mortuaries and, even, decapitation.


The music is played live from the wings and onstage we also have Jacob Kohli and Sarah Pearson as ensemble, and a band of just four - a guitarist, two keyboards and a drummer. The way it delivers so much potential for every member of the cast, is a delight to see on stage, no performer feels left without their big number.


Written and directed by Jon Brittain and with music by Matthew Lloyd, the production is high energy and full of zip as Kathy and Stella zoom about the stage on their desk chairs, taking us from Kathy’s mum’s garage to a police station and a pub as the story progresses.


Kathy and Stella is witty and full of character but behind all the flashy musical numbers is a down-to-earth story about friendship, love, and finding your place in the world. And murder. Obviously.


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 Scooby Doo mystery keeps its audience guessing right to the end.


It provides a terrific night of theatre, blasting a real jolt of energy, as the ever-building new British musical continues to make its mark. You can’t help but buy into Stella and Kathy’s lovable lifelong friendship and mission. Best of all? You never guess whodunnit.


Kathy and Stella solve a Murder! is at Bristol Old Vic from September 13-30 at 7.30pm, with additional 2pm matinee shows on Thursday and Saturday. The show is presented by Francesca Moody Productions, Kater Gordon, Wessex Grove and Fiery Angel, in association with Bristol Old Vic. Tickets are available from www.bristololdvic.org.uk. It then moves to Manchester, from 5-21 October 2023.




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