Murder on the Terrace with Heartbreak Productions

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Murder on the Terrace came to my lovely local park, Jesmond Dene in Newcastle this week. It is a brand new spoof murder mystery written by Heartbreak Productions resident wordsmith, David Kerby-Kendall. The perfect antidote to a turbulent summer in the real world (both in events and the usual shocking British weather) this is all just good clean fun.
Rich in puns, literary and contemporary references, terrible corny jokes and at times becoming a sort of murder mystery pantomime, Murder on the Terrace is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of any audience.
Personally, I thought it was absolutely hilarious, with the cast capturing perfectly that fine line between larger than life performance and managing to keep that fourth wall with the audience just about propped up most of the time.
The Cavas at home

There is quite a bit of audience participation in the show and in my experience this can sometimes be quite tedious – oh yes it can! – but the accomplished cast manage this with unfailing good humour and patience and carry it off with flying colours. The audience get to interview the characters to see if they can guess whodunnit, and in one, rather clever clogs section, they get to spot the multiple Agatha Christie references in one scene. They also get to play twenty questions to guess the identity of two fictional sleuths. This can prove trickier than you may imagine.

The cast are impressed by the rapier questioning of the audience

The plot is as thin as any Midsummer Murder with Lord Cava’s nephew Charles who was due to inherit the estate and fortune, being poisoned, along with Lord Cava’s adored pet parrot Hercule. The rest of the time is devoted to semi serious sleuthing with the help of Inspector Back of the Yard. Finally of course, the identity of the true culprit is revealed followed by some very jolly singing and dancing.
The versatility and humour of the cast manages to lighten the heaviest of double entendres and there are lashings of deft physical comedy, a delightful element of all my favourite Heartbreak shows.
All the cast play two characters, generally one from upstairs and one from downstairs. There are a lot of references to Downton Abbey as Mrs Hughes the Scottish housekeeper, played by the charming Abigail Castleton, seems to be in the wrong show and keeps referring to Lady Mary and Lord Grantham accidentally.

Servants under suspicion

Abigail is also Lady Cava a former dancer who married into money and has to put up with her husband’s philandering and general awfulness. She is probably the only character with any semblance of sense but she manages to get in some nice one liners. ‘My husband may be a cantakerous old bastard – but he’s no murderer! ‘Is there still romance in your marriage? Inspector Back asks Lord Cava ‘Of course! Only last year we went to Paris and I took her up the Champs Elysees!’ he replies. Boom boom!

A Cava surprised

James Edwards is Lord Cava and Wibble the butler. A gifted comic actor, he leaps about the stage with considerable energy and can do a mean Charleston to boot.

Witless toff

Howard Scott Walker is Graspitt the curmudgeonly accountant and Neville Witless, and old family friend with the hots for Lady Caroline. He rises marvelously to the double challenge of bringing to life the most superfluous characters with the very worst jokes to deliver, while still managing to be very funny indeed. Darrly Hughes as Sebastian Blatantly Obvious and James the part time footman socialist is a joy. I remembered him as an outragouesly funny Smee in Peter Pan last year. He brings his deliciously camp rendition of the the very effeminate Sebastian fizzing on to the stage and blithely ignores the  multitude of un politically correct gay jokes.

Unlikely lovers

The total the absence of political correctness throughout this romp is also a massive bonus in my book. I’d rather have ‘Carry On Murdering’ anyday than those dreadful BBC sitcoms where they are so politically correct that you can’t work out what’s meant to be funny and what isn’t. Bring back ‘On The Buses’ I say – well they have actually – it’s on GOLD.

Lord Cava takes a hit

But I digress. Amy Gardyne is spot on as usual  She is the deliciously common maid Ellie with the IQ of an ironing board – a woman who knows her own worth. ‘Are you chaste Ellie?’ asks Inspector Back ‘All the time Sir! Usually round the back of the church yard!’ She is aso Lady Caroline a woman of substance who is in love with Sebastian and not allowed to inherit her father’s estate because of her gender.

Inspector Back – rather dashing

Last but not least is Ben Thorne who plays the ill fated Charles and also Inspector Back, who really pulls the whole thing together. He is a calm and unifying presence in the midst of the madness and he handled the audience participation really well, which is not easy to do. Ben had been Caliban in the The Tempest the week before and I almost didn’t recognise him without the green make up all over his face. He was much more dapper as the Inspector in his pork pie hat.
Murder on the Terrace is fresh, funny and a fabulous antidote to Brexit balderdash. It has something for everyone and having watched it four times, I found it curiously addictive. Murder on the Terrace is touring the country until September at a gorgeous outdoor venue near you. Check out where to go and see them at Heartbreak Productions

Any idea what’s going on?