Miss Bilby and the Moss-Covered Cleric

‘Miss Bilby and the Moss-Covered Cleric’ // MATES Theatre Genesis

‘Miss Bilby and the Moss-Covered Cleric’ was creative.

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie intrigue and don’t take life too seriously, ‘Miss Bilby and the Moss-Covered Cleric’ will provide you with a lighthearted and wholesome experience.

’Seniors Perform’ is the inaugural theatrical show launched to coincide with Queensland Seniors Month. Don’t be fooled by the timing – it is a performance by Seniors to be enjoyed by all ages. 

Produced by MATES Theatre Genesis Inc., the event aims to promote inclusivity in the local arts community and is designed to support the creative process of everyone involved and present a community performance. For this particular event, ‘Miss Bilby and the Moss-Covered Cleric’ was also presented with the assistance from COTA Qld and Patron, Paul Bishop, who is also an actor and Redland City Councillor.

Australian playwright, Linda Aronson, provided the script for this charming and whodunnit style radio play. The story follows in true Agatha Christie-style: opera singer and Miss Marple clone, Clementine Bilby is the likeable character finding the corpse of the Vicar only to discover the Vicar is alive and well! The audience is then introduced to a variety of suspects including the lovely Miss Ivy Hoskins.

Sound effects were cleverly played out on stage using a variety of improvisations including a toy cat, toy telephone, bicycle bell and more. This enabled all talent to be working in the same space and sharing the experience together.

Set design by Suze Harpur, with props by Adelle O’Connell, was simple, practical and effective. A simple setting of microphone props and seating for other performers was an innovative way to have multiple actors on stage relaxed and enjoying the performance just as much as the audience.

Costume design saw Miss Bilby look the part, wearing a tweed skirt and blue blouse. Other cast members were attired suitably for an Agatha Christie spoof.

The energy on stage came to life after intermission, perhaps the cast were feeling more relaxed. They needn’t have worried as they all did an amazing job. All cast read from a script, another sign they are a community and there for enjoyment as it doesn’t have to be perfect. Reading directly from the script can have the ability to impact on voice projection and audience engagement. It may be best for scripts to be used as a prompt only.

The Narrator, Evol Hatton, displayed a wonderful, cohesive role in the presentation of ‘Miss Bilby and the Moss-Covered Cleric’.

Leading performer Dianne Porter was very engaging and worked well as Miss Clementine Bilby to keep the audience engaged for the duration of the performance. 

It would be remiss of me to not mention Ian Stevenson. Stevenson played Major Bagshot and came across as a seasoned performer. 

Other standout performers were Sally Egan playing Derek Smithers, Margaret McCann playing Sgt. Twinkie Hyde-Worthington and Josiah Stubbs, Glenda Ashleigh as Pearl Grubbs, Dennis Walsh as Harold Bagshot and Linda Stevenson playing the role of Sgt. Franklyn. 

Janet Angel played the role of Ivy Hoskins, Anna Bober played the role of Helena Foot-Manning, Brian Goodall as Inspector Gammage, Carole MacKinney as Dr Tennant, Glynis Sequeira played various roles. All performers showed an obvious love of the theatre and worked well together to present a very engaging performance.

The creative team was Director Suze Harpur, Assistant Director Suzanne Kelly and Margaret Laurence, Liz Sanderson, Paul Barnes and Adelle O’Connell.

This is what community theatre is all about. Love and being together, sharing a common interest and observing how it unfolds to watch something magical evolve.

Community theatre is about the joy it brings to actors on stage just as much as the audience.

Overall, the performance made the afternoon feel richer and was a joyful way to see theatre in a local playing space. ‘Miss Bilby and the Moss-Covered Cleric’ could be summed up in one word – community. And it certainly showcased that in spades. 

‘Miss Bilby and the Moss-Covered Critic’ performs until Sunday, 31 October 2021 at Birkdale School of Arts Hall. For more information, visit MATES Theatre Genesis’ website

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