It is the opening night of director-writer Shane Tweed’s new murder mystery, Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall.
Seven of the amateur theatre company’s cast are down with the dreaded lurgy. So, the Middling Cove Players’ director and two of the remaining actors, and whoever else Shane can co-opt, pitch in to continue the long tradition of ‘the show must go on.’ Juggling nerves, props, and absurd miscasting, will they manage to pull it off? Or will everything go horribly, terribly and awfully wrong?
The very funny, Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall, is an Agatha Christie meets sports-hall am-dram production gone wrong, full of hilarity and surprises, co-written by Jamie Oxenbould, also starting in the show, and Mark Kilmurry, who is directing.
For actor Ariadne Sgouros, who grew up watching a lot of British comedies like Blackadder, Vicar of Dibley and Ab Fab, says that what struck her on her first reading of the play is how much of those comedies she found in this script.
“The wit and playfulness of the writing was very compelling to me,” she says. “Plus, I love to make people laugh, so that alone was compelling enough to say ‘”hey can I be in this please??'”
Both written and directed by Kilmurry and co-written and starring Oxenbould, Sgouros posits that this coupling is like they have one brain. “Or one brain cell I can’t decide,” she jokes adding she really hopes her humour landed there.
“But it’s amazing to watch two people who have co-written something work so seamlessly together. And Mark’s knowledge of the script does tie into his directing of it but in such a collaborative way. There’s never “this is what was written so this is what it means”. We’re always involved in the conversation which I think is necessary for good comedy.”
Sgouros plays Karen, who is both the stage manager of the play within a play, and a hopeful actor. Sgouros thinks she moves the story forward like only a good stage manager can – through brute force. Joking obviously!
“Erin Shaw our stage manager is one of the most beautiful people you could ever work with. But that’s what I like about Karen. She didn’t necessarily choose this job, but she’s good at it. She’s smart, she takes no prisoners, she works hard, and she’s like really really pretty.”
Sgouros admits to loving a big cast so what does she make of this intimate cast of four? “I think both intimate and larger casts have their benefits. Larger casts, there’s usually more people to bring snacks. Intimate casts, there’s less people having to run to the bathroom. But the intimacy of this cast has been outrageously delightful. I love coming to work every day. And I think because there’s less of us it is easier to form those close bonds. I also think that because we’re doing a highly physical comedy, trust was established quite fast with less of us, so that was a real positive.”
Inspired by the funny, shambolic and dramatic events that community theatre workers experience while putting on a show, Sgouros shares some hilarious anecdotes from her own past experiences.
“I’ve definitely had a moment or two of almost forgetting my lines which is an experience I would not wish upon my worst enemy. Actually, that’s a pretty good one for a worst enemy. I take it back. But my favourite story is in 2018 I did a farce at the New Theatre in which we used guns and also established a very solid fourth wall. Closing night, the gun I’m meant to catch flies over my head and into the audience. Finger guns were used, corpsing was inevitable. I almost blacked out, but it was also the most fun I’ve had.”
Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall will not only supply audiences with permanent grins but seems to be spreading joy in the rehearsal room as well.
“Ugh, I don’t know if this is cool of me to say, but honestly every day has been a joy. Everyone is so funny it makes me sick. But I guess that has also been a challenge in some ways. The inevitable imposter syndrome that pops up. “Am I funny enough, am I doing a good enough job” etc. The main challenge honestly has been trying not to laugh. (I haven’t succeeded yet).”
Sgouros has worked in both TV and stage but says she doesn’t have a preferred medium adding that they both hold positives. But what she loves about the stage is the “live theatre” of it all. “You can’t go for another take, you can’t yell cut if something goes wrong, you just have to figure it out,” she says. “Which is so scary, but so exhilarating. You can’t beat that sort of adrenaline. It’s like a sport.”
As an actor Sgouros is interested in stories and characters where you walk out of the theatre and people go “I know that person, I went to high school with that person” or “you just captured my aunty perfectly” because that’s what life is. Life is theatre.
“We think sometimes acting “oh I can’t make that choice, no one would ever do that”. But they do, people surprise you all the time. “I can’t do a little skip every time I walk into a room, no one does that”. Walk down King Street for 45 seconds, I bet you someone does it. People are amazing. Average people are amazing. And I love their stories.”
Don’t miss Mark Kilmurry and Jamie Oxenbould’s new comedy which looks behind the scenes at the world of amateur theatre, where luck, determination and unbridled confidence rule the day. A very funny take on bad timing, incompetence and sweet optimism.
Says Sgouros, ” Okay everyone listen up. This is a new work which is already such an incredible thing. It’s a comedy, and everyone loves to laugh, don’t deny it. The cast is insanely talented (and also really good looking) and the work that has gone into it by every member of the team is truly a sight to behold. Set, costumes, props, lighting, sound, actor management – it’s a tour de force and I’d really like to see you there. Also, if you come up to me in the foyer and say, “I read your article so I’m here” I’ll buy you a drink of your choice.”
December 1 – January 14