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Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder | Review, Ambassadors Theatre

Witness the hilarious world of Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder, where true crime and comedy collide, in this brilliant new West End musical!

In a world where a docu-drama about Jeffrey Dahmer (yes, I’m a poet now) was a top 10 show on Netflix, and 2 million true crime books are sold each year, it seems a large percentage of the public are mildly to very obsessed with real-life murder stories!

The comic musical Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder, newly opened in the West End, follows two true crime fanatics with their own podcast, run out of Kathy’s mum’s garage. They’ve been best friends since year 5 and are now both about 30, not working, and self-proclaimedly obsessed with murder.

Although new to the West End, the show has been around a while and already has quite the fan base. It performed to rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2022 and 2023. When it caught the eye of West End producer Francesca Moody, she decided that the show deserved a bigger audience and just generally to be bigger! 

The original fringe show was 70 minutes without an interval, whereas the West End production is half an hour longer, interval notwithstanding. The sets are bigger, there are new songs, it’s basically had a full West End makeover that took many months of work.

Writers Jon Brittain and Matthew Floyd Jones conceived the show during lockdown. Inspired by the growing popularity of true crime podcasts, Jon thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny to have two podcasters actually trying to solve a murder?’ This idea became the central plot of the show.

When their favourite author, Felicia Taylor, is murdered just after they had met her at a book store, Kathy and Stella, played since the very first Edinburgh show by Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds, decide to use everything they’ve learned by reading about true crime to solve her murder! Much hilarity ensues while also exploring themes like the danger of obsession and the modern need for approval on social media. One standout moment for me was the song ‘The Approval of Strangers,’ performed very seriously by Rebekah Hinds. The show also touches on the importance of even the best and most co-dependent friends giving each other space to grow.

The cast features the two leads, supported by an outstanding ensemble of five, each playing multiple roles. Each one of them gets their time to shine, and they do so brilliantly. I’m not gonna list them all, but I have to mention Imelda Warren-Green’s Erica, the Kathy & Stella superfan, who is almost literally exploding with excitement in every scene. The character is so happy to meet the girls, and the actor shows this by being so tense with excitement that she is practically vibrating. It’s physically impressive (I tried it, can only keep it up for about 30 seconds) and just so hilarious.

Both the leads are fabulous, but for me, Rebekah playing Stella was my stand-out favourite. Her comedy timing is perfection, and I was transfixed by her performance from the start. She wields her Hull accent like a blunt comedic instrument, emphasizing the unusual (for us in London) vowel sounds for extra effect. To be honest, I think they all do a bit of this, but Rebekah had me in stitches the most!

Cecilia Carey’s set is simple yet detailed. It is basically set up to be Kathy’s mum’s garage, where the pair hang out and record their podcast/look for clues. However, the movement and adjustment of certain set pieces transform the space into a morgue, a conference centre, a book store, as required. If you really look closely around the ‘garage’ set, there are some fun details like the box of wine labelled “Il Omicidio” to spot (for more Easter eggs, peer closely at their giant pinboard)!

I can definitely see Kathy and Stella being around for a long time, as this is a brilliant show that audiences will definitely want to see multiple times; I’ve already seen it 1.5 times, after flooding during the interval cut short the opening night, and I will definitely be back again.

Find out who killed Felicia Taylor, see if the intrepid duo can unravel the mystery, or will they just make a big mess and waste a lot of police time? The only way to find out is to get your tickets to see Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder at the Ambassadors Theatre until September 2024!

To book tickets visit www.kathyandstella.com

Words by Nick Barr

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