Review: Murder at Ackerton Manor a Must – See Comedy Thriller on LFT Stage (Port Dover Maple Leaf)

“It’s an outrageously funny murder mystery thriller!”

June 19, 2024

Port Dover Maple Leaf

By Donna McMillan

It’s an outrageously funny murder mystery thriller! It’s an homage to Agatha Christie with more than a few threads of Mel Brooks woven in and out of a fabulously comedic storyline written by Canadian playwright Steven Gallagher. Directed by the playwright and acted flawlessly by three actors in seven roles, this second play of Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s 45th anniversary season had everyone laughing non – stop through the hilarity being performed on stage opening night. Oh yes, there was a whodunnit murder or two to solve amongst the antics of the quirky characters who found themselves at the English Gothic Ackerton Manor on a dark and stormy night.  There is also a theft of the Eastern Star diamond and the revealing of some very shady financial dealings.

Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski & Andrew Scanlon in Steven Gallagher’s Murder at Ackerton Manor. Lighthouse Festival 2024

As the play opens, the audience is treated to an amazing set design of a Victorian  wood panelled study created by Megan Cinel.  Lighting (Steve Lucas) and sound ( Hussein Ismail), with flashes of lightning visible through windows, sets the gothic horror scene of the murder of the dastardly Roger Ackerton, lord of the manor so to speak.   Andrew Scanlon, who toured the US in Kinky Boots and performed in many other shows, plays the haughty owner of the manor as well as the detective, leading the audience through murder, mayhem and mystery stacked upon continually revealing clues. He was perfect in these roles.

Of course, there is a butler, who was often discounted and mistreated by Ackerton, making one wonder if the butler really did do it.    Adrian Shepherd – Gawinski, who is a familiar face to LFT theatre goers from past plays and has performed at many other Canadian venues, is the very proper butler, Curtiss.  “You rang sir?” He was amazingly good in his three roles that lead to multiple accent usages and such very impressively quick costume changes as he transformed into the gardener and most hilariously as a “scarlet” southern belle who chases after rich men.   She is the recent widow of a 93- year- old, no less. He was hysterically funny.  Bravo!

Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski, Andrew Scanlon & Eliza-Jane Scott in Steven Gallagher’s Murder at Ackerton Manor. Lighthouse Festival 2024

The plot thickens as one takes a close look at Roger Ackerton’s younger sister Ariadne, who is a bit dowdy but is surprisingly working on the writing of a historical, romantic, erotica novel!  Eliza- Jane Scott, a veteran LFT performer, who has also acted in Come From Away, Mama Mia and many more, was drawn to the comedic aspect of the play and performed this character as well as the zany German professor, amusing the audience in her lederhosen poses and “vacky and vonderful” accent!

Kudos to the three actors as well as the Creative Team of Megan Cinel, Steve Lucas, Alex Amini, Costume Designer, Daniele Guillaume, Stage Manager, Sara Allison, Assistant Manager.  The Production Team also includes Alice Barnatt, Hailey Parker, Colin Mahon, Kassidy sharp, Nolan Cortes, Stephen English, Wyatt Hoskin, Aidan Bridge, Clare Padgett.

As I was entering the theatre, a couple of people wondered how this murder mystery would be.   Upon leaving, audience members were still laughing, commented on how amazing it was and wondered if I could be effusive enough in this review.   It’s a must see!   

To see it in Port Dover, it is on stage until June 29.    For tickets, visit the Box Office at the corner of Main and Market in Port Dover, or call 1 – 888 – 779 – 7703.