Review: Murder on the Wireless, Ensemble Theatre (NSW)

Lynne Lancaster

The double bill dovetails nicely in a delightful evocation of the heyday of the radio play.
Review: Murder on the Wireless, Ensemble Theatre (NSW)

Katie Fitchett as Foley sound effects artist in Murder on the Wireless. Photo: Prudence Upton.

Much fun was had by all in this exuberant thrilling double bill that transports us back in time to a 1950s BBC studio in London, where we are in the audience for two radio plays, The Solitary Cyclist, based on one of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and The Deadly Wives Club, a fast-paced thriller that’s John Buchanan-like in style.

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The production is both visually and aurally exciting because we see the usually hidden work of a Foley artist (the often unacknowledged sound effects person). In this case, the work is for a radio play – which are still very popular – but today also an important role for films, TV and theatre.

The cast of four are splendid. Mark Kilmurry who wrote, adapted and directed the show as well as performing in it (!) is terrific as Holmes. Before the show starts, he introduces himself and the cast in character, and gives a rundown of the various (London 1950s) plays they have been in. As Holmes, he is mostly appropriately aloof and arrogant, and the play is a treat for Sherlockians. In The Deadly Wives Club, he plays suave, dashing, debonair Riley Jones who, with his amicably divorced wife Teresa Scott, becomes involved in a breathless train chase and a dangerous speeding car journey to thwart a criminal mastermind.

Daniel Mitchell plays both an intelligent Watson and the villain Woodley in The Solitary Cyclist as well as the client and various adversaries in The Deadly Wives Club. Georgie Parker has much fun as the refined, charming Violet Smith in The Solitary Cyclist and the elegant, sophisticated Teresa Scott in The Deadly Wives Club .

Katie Fitchett as the Foley artist is tremendous – and kept extremely busy. We see all the different sorts of sound effects made: various sets of men’s and women’s shoes, a squashed cabbage, a slamming door, sliding wood, rusting leaves (two different sorts are used), bird whistles, a tea set, flapping gloves, bashing a carpet, a whirling meat grinder and eggbeater, crunchy pebbles, a flapping parasol, a wet balloon, a squeaky hot water bottle, a menacing creaky bicycle, and of course, the traditional use of coconut shells for horses’ hooves. She also gets to wear the deerstalker and cape as Holmes. Pay close attention or you will miss something!

The two plays dovetail neatly in a delightful evocation of the heyday of the radio play.

4 stars out of 5 ★★★★

Murder on the Wireless
by Arthur Conan Doyle & Mark Kilmurry
Director: Mark Kilmurry
Cast: Katie Fitchett, Mark Kilmurry, Daniel Mitchell, Georgie Parker
7 June-13 July 2019
Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli NSW
Tickets $38-$80

About the author

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.