Festival Diary: Thrills and spills with the murder mystery musical crimebusters

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Thoughts of an early night, after the best part of a week of action across the festivals, were banished with the prospect of a late-night murder mystery musical extravaganza.

The backing of Fleabag producer Francesca Moody undoubtedly played a part in the show packing out the Roundabout venue at Summerhall for Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder.

But she may well be onto another winner with a heart-warming story of quirky friendship disguised as a tale about two best pals behind a true crime podcast – a show for any girls harbouring dreams like Kathy of a career playing “doctors and corpses” rather than “ballet and horses.”

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There was much fun to be had on the front row watching the audience reactions to the painfully funny punnery in the songs – and almost as many thrills involved in trying not to trip over the various cast members as they came and went, and climbed up stairwells, as those encountered by the intrepid 21st century crimebusters.

Irish singer Camille O’Sullivan, one of many returning Fringe favourites his year, is also creating intimate experiences in her own inimitable style in the Reid Concert Hall, the splendid Victorian venue well worth seeking out of Bristo Square.

O’Sullivan cast enough of a mesmerising spell on her sold-out audience the night I called in, particularly during the quieter moments in the stripped-back show, accompanied only by pianist Feargal Murray.

But how many other singers would take on the challenge of going acapella for 15 minutes when the power cuts out, as it did the previous evening?

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It was even more of a homecoming for Murray, most definitely the quieter half of the double act, than O’Sullivan as she pointed out that he had not only auditioned for a place at Edinburgh University in the same venue, but had graduated at the McEwan Hall just around the corner.

Rebekah Hinds and Bronté Barbé play Stella and Kathy in new musical Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder. Picture: Mihaela BodlovicRebekah Hinds and Bronté Barbé play Stella and Kathy in new musical Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic
Rebekah Hinds and Bronté Barbé play Stella and Kathy in new musical Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

Broadcaster Iain Dale is back on the Fringe with an impressive array of politial guests for his lunchtime talk show.

But he had already suffered two mishaps by the time I caught up with him in conversation with impressionist Rory Bremner.

He came out onto the stage at the Pleasance’s EICC outpost on crutches – prompting an immediate quip from Bremner that he was taking part in the “Paralympic Fringe.”

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There were more gasps than laughs when Dale explained that he had taken a tumble at a recent appearance at Buxton Opera House, ending up in A&A after tumbling 12 feet into an orchestra pit disguised by black cloth.

Dale posted a fairly eye-watering account online of the incident, which happened just a few days before he was due to travel to Edinburgh, recalling his efforts to rebuff attempts to call for an ambulance.

He said: “I continued to resist until I tried to get up. I couldn’t. There was acute pain in both knees. I realised then that the game was up. I remember thinking this would make a good plot line for Casualty.”

Dale, who double-checked with the EICC staff that there was no orchestra pit in the room for his Fringe shows, suffered another blow after discovering that Nadine Dorries had cancelled her planned talk with him in Edinburgh at the eleventh hour.

Bremner said: “So she is literally the cancel culture secretary.”

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