Review: Theatre Group’s But Why Bump Off Barnaby? @ The Annex 02/02/23

Delightfully silly
  • 10

TG’s production of But Why Bump Off Barnaby? is a hilariously whimsical Knives Out style murder-mystery: aristocrat Orien LeDuc invites his family members to his spooky manor, and before long, long-absent Barnaby Folcey is murdered. An unlikely group of eccentric characters desperately try and unveil the mystery behind Barnaby’s death, the plot thickening at every turn: it transpires that while Barnaby had a motive to kill everyone else, no one had a motive to kill Barnaby. What results is a delightfully silly and thoroughly enjoyable performance. The laughter elicited in the audience from this show could probably be heard all the way from the library; with a packed opening night in the Annex, I had an absolute blast watching But Why Bump Off Barnaby?.

Standout performances (I’m really having to stop myself from listing the whole cast here) come from Ben Mansell as Medkins the Butler, Eden Jack as Barnaby, Jessica Laws-Robinson as Lady Barbara Fenwick, and Rhiannon Morgan as Rosalind Barstow. The directors, Mika Woods, Liv Grindon, and Zayn Khan, did a fabulous job of telling this bizarre story.


While Barnaby’s stage time was regrettably short (you know, being bumped off and everything), the role left a lasting impression. His asides to the audience set the tone for the show and his dynamic with Xander Searson as Jeff Barnett was electric. Lady Barbara provided constant humour both in her delivery and at literally every other moment of the show – I could probably watch a two-hour performance consisting entirely of Lady Barbara knitting a small hat for a lobster. All of the aged characters, including Robin Mooney as Orien LeDuc, were utterly convincing (is that a compliment? I hope so). Emily Baldock as Dora Dunstock gave a consistent and lovable performance, despite the frustrating yet comic miscommunications created by the character’s brainlessness. Emily Norman as Miss Barnsdale was particularly outstanding, especially considering her late joining the cast. 


Rhiannon Morgan as Rosalind Barstow and Hannah Swadling as Cleo Barton, the glamorous, quick-witted, and bitchy girls, were excellent. Rosalind Barstow was professional and effortless in her role. Tezni Williams as Magnolia did a great job at portraying the out-of-place maid who seemed like the only voice of reason in the eccentric group. The diverse range of characters allowed for every character to lean fully into themselves, and they all worked brilliantly off of one another.


Despite a couple of minor tech issues, the show used the lighting to its full potential (being set in a thunderstorm) with brilliant comic effect. The connection with the audience was unmatched as it felt like the audience was really a part of the show, while the cleverly designed set allowed for a level of dramatic irony. The set was wonderful, with secret panels and a full revolving wall, which only enhanced the physical comedy of the production – and special mention must also go to the central focus of the set: the portrait of an elderly Zayn Khan by Charlotte Connelly. 


Overall, But Why Bump Off Barnaby? was a joy to watch and gained a well-deserved full standing ovation. For opening night (opening night!) the execution was impressive, and it was obvious that both the cast and the audience had the most fun. Head over to the Annex to find out once and for all: why bump off Barnaby?!


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