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Review: All I Really Need to Know I Learned By Being in a Bad Murder Mystery at Bakehouse

By Lisa Lanzi

Tucked in to The Studio (the intimate forty-seat ‘black-box’ theatre at The Bakehouse in Adelaide) a full house was treated to this comic farce featuring a cast and production team from Flinders University Performing Arts Society in their debut production.

The company of 9 have all juggled their diverse areas of study with rehearsing this community theatre piece by Werner Trieschmann.

As the audience settled into the seats in our sweltering Adelaide temperatures, and with the stage already lit, various characters entered the performance space, silently giving us clues to their characters through small solo and duo vignettes. A lighting change signifies a shift to a renewed beginning and we journey together into the land of the murder mystery trope.

The metadrama emerges as we meet the motley and slightly dishevelled group about to be cast in a new play, the caffeine-addicted director and arrogant but dedicated stage manager. Much banter and argument inhabit each scene with scathing references to how awful they were in a previous play (one also actually written by Trieschmann) and how inattentive the cast are to backstage etiquette as set down by their dictatorial and signage-addicted stage manager (Nick Mitchell). This voiced acknowledgement of theatrical devices and the internal workings of theatre craft and process gave the work another layer and emphasised the satirical nature of the writing.

Two of the cast are sent to retrieve the reluctant Narrator (Nick Endenberg) from his ‘hiding’ place in the audience, thus reinforcing the play’s meta aspects including the continual breaching of the fourth wall. At various intervals the audience are lectured by this world-weary character about bad theatre, bad actors and long-suffering audiences. When seated off the stage The Narrator also engages his nearby audience in a heartfelt and hilarious discussion about his cats.

Much to and fro action occurs during the 40 minute work, punctuated by a well-choreographed sword fight by Bas de Groot and Keystone Cop-esque chase sequences.

The cast have worked within a short rehearsal period but the cohesiveness of the ensemble is evident in performance and is to be applauded. I found the start was a little slow but the pace and energy did kick into gear soon enough and the audience was certainly on board. It is not easy to balance depth of characterization with the ‘out of character’ irony needed to direct that same performance as a comment on theatre ritual and procedure. Director Sharee Grimshaw has done fine work with her cast.

The larger-than-life and very amusing Accent Coach character - a dual role for Kyle McAuliffe who also played Nacho - was a colourful insertion in the play. For a non-professional cast I was particularly impressed by the vocal clarity each person brought to their role. The unfussy set and costuming by Lilian Rilett and Cherie Hickson also allowed the writing and characters to star.

Photo Credit: Lisa Lanzi

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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