Review: Inspired comic lunacy awaits those who enter ‘Ackerton Manor’ at Lighthouse Festival Theatre (Haldimand Press)

By Mike Renzella | The Haldimand Press

June 20, 2024

PORT DOVER—Three amazingly manic performances from the three stars of Lighthouse Theatre’s latest comedy, ‘Murder at Ackerton Manor,’ are sure to equally delight fans of absurdist comedy and good ol’ fashioned whodunnit mysteries in the vein of Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle.

Those performers are: Andrew Scanlon, pulling double duty as both murder victim Roger Ackerton and the detective sent to investigate, alongside Eliza Jane-Scott and Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski performing a cavalcade of suspects, each more ridiculous than the last.

While the mystery pleasantly unfolds, comedy is the star of the show. 

The play zips along with a slapstick style akin to classic Looney Tunes, or one of the classic spoof comedies, like Spaceballs or Three Amigos.

Scanlon pulls off the admirable task of playing two characters, often within the same scene, costume changes and all. 

His French detective is constantly a step behind and proves a perfect foil to the gallery of suspects, while switching easily into the role of Ackerton in a series of flashbacks where he continually finds new ways to make the audience loath the character more and more.

Pictured (l-r) are the stars of ‘Murder at Ackerton Manor’ Eliza Jane-Scott, Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski, and Andrew Scanlon in a scene from the show.  —Submitted photo.

Jane-Scott is electric in her appearances, throwing caution to the wind in a masterclass of a comic performance that sees her playing both a sexually repressed sibling of Ackerton, and a crotchety old scientist. 

If you didn’t know better, you would swear the characters were performed by different actors.

Not to be outdone, Shepherd-Gawinski is the third lynchpin in this trio of gifted comedic performers. 

Following up on his masterful turn in last summer’s ‘Bed and Breakfast,’ Shepherd-Gawinski once again impresses with his ability to, like Scanlon, play multiple characters within the same scene. From a stuffy family butler to a shrewd temptress in full drag, Shepherd-Gawinski draws some of the show’s biggest laughs, amiably popping up in doorframes and windows to deliver a line of dialogue between one of his many backstage costume changes.

The show is the brainchild of writer/actor/director Steven Gallagher. 

While the actors bring the thunder with their manic, committed performances, Gallagher’s script is the anchor that ties the zaniness together. The jokes come fast with a high hit-percentage, and the mystery, while absurd, holds together logistically as clues are planted throughout to help audiences try and outsmart the detective.

Andrew Scanlon and Eliza-Jane Scott in Steven Gallagher’s Murder at Ackerton Manor. -Submitted photo.

Gallagher has a firm grasp on physical comedy, employing a number of fun theatrical tricks. 

From perfectly placed lightning strikes at a shocking revelation, to the elegant way spotlights are used to highlight a monologue (allowing other performers to magically switch characters in the darkness), the play is the clear result of a talented creative person let loose to full effect.

He is aided in that effort by the stellar workmanship of Lighthouse’s backstage team, who have created a wonderful, versatile set and ensure everything runs smoothly to amplify the physical comedy happening on stage. 

Like always at Lighthouse, it’s a perfect marriage of performance and backstage craft.

So, if you are the kind of person that cracked up watching Spaceballs when actual jam leaked out of the computer screen after a cadet yells, “They jammed our transmission!” then you owe it to yourself to check in for a night’s stay at Ackerton Manor.

The show runs at Port Dover’s Lighthouse Theatre until June 29. 

It will then enjoy a run at Port Colborne’s Roselawn Theatre from July 3-14. 

For tickets and information, visit

After studying journalism at Humber College, Mike Renzella desired to write professionally but found himself working in technical fields for many years. Beginning in 2019 as a freelancer, he joined the team full-time later that year. Since then, Mike has won several awards for his articles thanks to his commitment to presenting an unbiased, honest look at the important news and events shaping our community.