Review: The Kindness of Murder (Next Stage Community Booster 2021)

Rebecca Perry and Andy Trithardt

The Kindness of Murder is one of the plays in the Theatre Shorts Stream of The Next Stage Community Booster. Written by Steven Elliott Jackson, it’s the story of Dr. Crippen (Andy Trithardt) and Ethel LeNeve (Rebecca Perry), his mistress. It’s produced by Steven Elliott Jackson, Rebecca Perry From Minmar Gaslight Productions and directed by Ryan G. Hinds.

I really enjoyed it. Watching a play on a screen can be difficult; I have friends who won’t do it. They tried early on in the pandemic, hated what they saw, and won’t watch again. I discovered that I love watching staged readings, but plays are really hit or miss. The Kindness of Murder was definitely ‘hit’.

Hinds has delivered an engaging piece of theatre made to be watched on a screen. There are three performers on stage, two actors and a camera.

Right now, we can only experience theatre at home, and for some of us, we can only experience it alone. There are things that a video of a traditional stage production just can’t give us. For me, the most important thing that’s lost is the energy both between the audience and the actors and in the audience in general.

Hinds understands this and gives us things we could never get in a traditional production. In the opening scene, it’s the camera that provides the gentle rolling effect of a ship. In a couple of scenes, the camera is at an unusual angle, something I liked a lot.

The actors didn’t always face ‘the audience’. There’s one scene with Trithardt speaking while his back is to the camera. Very effective, but it can only happen because this is being filmed and recorded. It wouldn’t work in a theatre. There’s a scene with Perry sitting and talking to the audience. She’s in profile for the entire scene. It’s very effective but, once again, wouldn’t work on stage.

There were so many things I liked about this production. Perry was wonderful as a rather prim Ethel LeNeve, complaining about Crippen’s wife and rhapsodizing about Crippen, the perfect polite gentleman, all while she’s wearing said wife’s clothes and jewelry. The contrast in her voice, accent, and body language when she was ‘quoting’ Crippen’s wife made it easy to understand why Crippen would prefer her.

Trithardt played Crippen as soft-spoken and gentlemanly, but he quickly transformed into a cringing mess of a man in the presence of Belle, his wife. I loved his body language when he was angry; he clenched and unclenched his fist, tapped his fingers, and bounced his knee, agitated and in motion, even though he was seated.

Until we can attend in person, making productions specifically to be enjoyed on a screen is what will get people watching theatre again. Even when we can go in person, I think that there’s still going to be a place for this type of theatre. I know some of you are thinking, “isn’t that a film?” I think it sometimes as well. It’s different than a film, at least a mass-market movie. It’s theatre.

The Kindness of Murder is a great place to start if you haven’t watched a play on a screen yet, or if you had a bad experience in the early days.

Details:

  • Next Stage Community Booster is a virtual festival. Once you buy a pass, you are able to access content behind the website paywall.
  • Ticket packages range from Tip What You Can to $100 depending on what you choose to access. See the website for ticketing information. This, and 5 other short productions, can be accessed through the Theatre Shorts stream for $25 or is included with the Community Booster Membership for $100 (This, and 5 other short productions, can be accessed through the Theatre Shorts stream for $25 or is included with the Community Booster Membership for $100)
  • All digital content will be available as of 12:01 am on Thursday, January 21, 2021, and will be available until 11:59 pm on Sunday, January 31, 2021.
  • Download the digital brochure

Content Warnings: Mature themes, depictions of murder

Photo of Rebecca Perry and Andy Trithardt provided by Toronto Fringe

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