Sunday, December 10, 2023

Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall


Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall by Mark Kilmurry and Jamie Oxenbould.  World Premiere.  Ensemble Theatre, Sydney, December 1 2023 – January 14 2024.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
December 9

Playwrights: Mark Kilmurry & Jamie Oxenbould
Director: Mark Kilmurry
Assistant Director/Choreographer: Emma Canalese
Set & Costume Designer: Simon Greer
Lighting Designer: Verity Hampson
Composer & Sound Designer: Daryl Wallis
Stage Manager: Erin Shaw
Assistant Stage Manager: Christopher Starnawski
Special Observer: Toby Blome; Costume Supervisor: Sara Kolijn
Stage Management Secondment: Bernadett Lorincz
Costume Observer: Katie Fitchett

Sam O’Sullivan: Shane
Jamie Oxenbould: Barney
Ariadne Sgouros: Karen
Eloise Snape: Phillipa
Tallulah Pickard: Voice Of Niece

I absolutely enjoyed the uninhibited fun of the Ensemble’s skilled professionals creating the gormless committed amateurs of the Middling Cove Amateur Theatre Company getting themselves together and finally succeeding – with the help of a suspicious member of the audience – in presenting the funniest spoof of Agatha Christie in Mark Kilmurry and Jamie Oxenbould’s Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall.

More than a mere Summer Holidays Entertainment, its mad-cap quality reaches a stage of absurdity which brings up – watch out for the vomit which plays an important role – a lot of unexpected thinking after the laughing.

Stop reading now to avoid the spoiler.

Jamie Oxenbould as 'Barney'
in Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall
Photo: Prudence Upton


On the long drive home (for me from Sydney to Canberra, after our tasty ham and turkey at Ensemble’s in-house Bayley’s Bistro), I began to wonder if part of the spoof of a suburban middle-class amateur group was a fun reflection on The Ensemble itself, surely rescued (as it really was) by the top-class professional Hayes Gordon way back in the 1950s.  

Mind you, Oxenbould’s over-the-top I-am-the-great-actor Barney, though he ‘taught’ instant acting to the recruit from the audience, was absolutely nothing like the Hayes Gordon I remember meeting in the 1960s.  But I suspect that Hayes’ method of teaching his approach to the Stanislavsky technique (not the psychologically risky Method Acting he had experienced in USA before his move to Australia in 1952) was a solid support for the acting skills the whole cast display today.

That’s the positive thinking.

But a more disturbing thought was, in a world bearing down upon us as it is politically in awful warfare, socially on the un-manageable internet, and physically as we overheat the earth, is it fair to have a twinge of guilt about enjoying simple laughter among a North Shore theatre audience who can (like me) afford to be there financially and in safety?

Or is it important to recognise theatre like this, of this quality, as proof of the best side of humanity?  Proof that we can see ourselves as we really are – and indeed even make fun of ourselves – and that this is our best hope for the future?

I think it is that hope which keeps the old boatshed in the middling cove at Careening Cove, Kirribilli, going – Australia’s longest continuously running professional theatre – in the tradition set by directors over the years: Hayes Gordon, Sandra Bates and Mark Kilmurry.


Ariadne Sgouros, Eloise Snape, Sam O'Sullivan, Jamie Oxenbould
in Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall, Ensemble Theatre
Photo: Prudence Upton