Interview: 'It's Championing Women's Friendships and Voices.': Rebekah Hinds and Bronté Barbé on KATHY & STELLA SOLVE A MURDER!

'It's gonna be quite amazing to sit and take stock once we're open properly.'

By: May. 23, 2024
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Interview: 'It's Championing Women's Friendships and Voices.': Rebekah Hinds and Bronté Barbé on KATHY & STELLA SOLVE A MURDER!
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Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder arrives in the West End later this month. The show, a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, tells the story of two friends who host “Hull’s least successful true-crime podcast.” But what happens when their favourite true crime author is murdered on the day they meet her? Together, Kathy and Stella decide to solve the murder. 

Recently we had the chance to chat with Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds, who play Kathy and Stella, respectively. We discussed what it’s been like to have been a part of the show since the beginning, bringing the production to the West End and how the fans have played an important role in the show.

How did you each get started in the world of theatre? 

Rebekah: I was an Amdram baby! I didn't start really young like those that do panto from four years old and it's all they've ever known. I was more of a slow burn. I had a bit of a crappy time at school and then was doing drama classes and going, “Actually, I like this!” I always was obsessed with making people laugh or being silly. I thought I wanted to be a comedian for a bit and then I got really bad social anxiety and was like, “Oh, I’ll never do that!” So then I joined Southport Dramatic Club, big up Little Theatre Southport! I did shows there from about thirteen, fourteen years old. I did two or three plays or musicals a year until I was eighteen and then went to drama school. So I was already working in the theatre even before I went and did it professionally. 

Bronté: My mum sings and she did Amdram, as did my auntie on my dad's side, so there was a big theatre presence. We loved Disney, did a lot of watching of Disney - obsessed with that! But I went to dance classes, not baby ballet, but I remember doing some kind of tap routine when I was about four in a silver outfit with a little plastic trumpet. I don’t know why it sticks out for me! So I was doing dance classes from a young age and then I got into the Amdram with my mum. 

Rebekah: She was in the shows with you?

Bronté: Yeah! I remember doing South Pacific with her. So I did dance lessons three nights a week, I did a drama class and I had singing lessons. For my singing lessons, my mum would make dresses for the teacher, an opera singer, Jayne Carpenter. She taught so many amazing people who are in the industry around our area. So that paid for my singing lessons. And then for my drama and dance lessons were in the same place, so I’d do a drama lesson and then I’d help teach so I could get a bit of credit in the bank. But yeah, all my evenings were taken up after school doing it. And my Saturdays!

Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder!
Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds in Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder!
Photo Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

How did you get started with Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder

Rebekah: It all started with a workshop that we were offered to do. It kind of came out of nowhere, didn't it? We were both doing other jobs. 

Bronté: Spring 2022, wasn’t it?

Rebekah: Yeah! And I was like, “Nah.” [Laughs] Because I was too busy doing another show! It's more that I was busy and I was just so tired and being like, “I think I just need to not do this.” But then Bronté got the same script, and we've worked together a year before on a different musical, and she read it and said she heard my voice in the other character!

Bronté: I heard her voice in the script and I knew it was her!

Rebekah: And I went, “Oh, I've been offered it as well!” So I was like, “If you give me the matinee day off on the Wednesday, I’ll do it.” So then we went in, did this workshop, fell in love with it, were offered the job by the end of the week and off we went to Edinburgh a month or two later for this crazy whirlwind ride at the Fringe! 

Bronté: It was sandwiched in between jobs for us both. I was doing Newsies, you were doing Oklahoma!

Rebekah: It was this perfect thing to just slot in between jobs. And I think that's what we thought it was at the time. And then the reaction to it was just mad! It felt like some cult hit within the first couple of weeks. We were gobsmacked.

Bronté: It's amazing! And that has become our last three years, which is mad! Exciting!

For those unfamiliar with the show, can you tell us a bit about it? 

Rebekah: So two best friends from Hull, outsiders, have always had a very strong but bizarre friendship bonded over loving true crime ever since they were kids. Then, because of hardship in their life, they start a podcast together. It's not very successful, but it’s their safe place. Then they realise that their favourite true crime author is in town signing books, so they go to meet her and they send her an email saying, “Can we talk to you about our podcast?” Because she's doing a true crime podcast network. That night, she gets murdered, they get called into the police station and then they get embroiled in solving the murder. They get over-excited and they want to try and help solve the murder, but the police are not up for this at all, so they decide to do it on their own. Comedy madness ensues from there!

Bronté: They're two very normal people. They're extremely relatable and they have an amazing friendship, but it's extremely human. It goes through all the trials or tribulations any friendship goes through. The headline is a story of friendship, championing platonic love.

Were either of you true crime fans before joining Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder?

Bronté: Yeah!

Rebekah: Oh, yeah! It’s weird, I think a lot of women are! 

Bronté: There’s been a lot of research into the demographic that it appeals to and why people gravitate towards it.

Rebekah: It’s a fascination. I think there's a sense of control, feeling safer from watching these things. Also, for me, it's a morbid fascination with the psyche of the criminal mind and the psychology of what would make somebody get to that point. I'm fascinated by how our brain chemistry and traumas and things that happen both inform how they behave.

Bronte: Absolutely. Being prepared, subconsciously, is maybe the pull as well. But equally, this show is not just a show about a true crime podcast - I always emphasise that. And it's by no means celebrating murder. That's the thread that ties them together, the thing that bonded them.

Rebekah: And it's cleverly written in a way that's sending things up and is funny and silly, but I don't think it's offensive. I don't think it trivialises it.

Bronté: No, not at all! It's fascinating to look [at] why anybody gravitates towards it, why there's so much on Netflix.

Rebekah: And why the demographic is more women. But it's championing and celebrating women's friendships and voices.

And what has it been like to see this show grow over the years that you've been involved with it?

Bronté: It's been incredible. We've traipsed through the mud - actual, physical mud in Edinburgh! We’ve done it all, haven’t we? And it's been so special because we've been attached to it from the word go. It’s changed, it's morphed and this feels like an amazing payoff. But also, there's so much still to do with it, which is exciting!

Rebekah: It's just been such a journey, hasn't it? It's been two and a half years of our lives, but it's been split. We've been able to do other things in between. And what's nice about that is that it only strengthens our relationship with this piece. You'll go away and do something else, which is also brilliant, but then it's like, “I want to revisit this again!”... But then it's tempting to go, “Well, I must replicate what I did before!” But actually, scrap that, we're starting again. There's new energy and it will shift and change. There will be things that feel really similar, but there'll be things that grow richer every time. 

Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder!
Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds in Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder!
Photo Credit: Ellie Kurttz

What has it been like seeing the fan base for Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder grow?

Rebekah: They've been instrumental in the making of it and everything! It was fascinating to see the reaction to it. It felt like we already had this little cult fan base from the first bit of Edinburgh. And a lot of those people have seen each iteration of it and have come to the different places and have seen how it's grown. 

Bronté: It makes sense! The fans really feel like they know these characters, they can see themselves in Kathy and Stella’s story, which is amazing. And it's great because at the end of the day, Kathy and Stella are fangirls! That's who they are. It's been fantastic research, meeting the fans and chatting to them about everything. But I think that's why they've really taken to it.

Rebekah: It's also been so nice to see that they've responded so well to the development of it. A lot of the time with musicals that start off small, when you have to then put an interval in, some shows, it feels like you're just crowbarring in extra stuff for the sake of it. That was never what this was. If anything, we had to take stuff out in order to make it fit! So then when it went back in, it was just deepening the plot and enriching the story. You do worry like, “Oh, they're making it into a two-act, making it longer. What if it just gets a bit thin and isn't as good?” We’re so glad to see that they agreed that everything just added to the story.

Bronté: It’s a running joke that at the end of the show, we're gonna have to do like a play of bits that have been taken out that we still love!

Did your interactions with the fans have an impact on your performance in any way?

Rebekah: Probably a little bit!

Bronté:  Yeah, I definitely think so. It's so amazing with musical theatre that you get to meet fans because they can see you at stage door and it's immediate feedback. It's been wonderful. 

Rebekah: They notice everything, as well! Sometimes I feel like they know more than me about stuff!

Bronté: Yeah, absolutely! It's been amazing to have their support. But obviously, we've not modelled characters on any of the fans. It's not like that at all. But I think what's nice is the stories that we're telling, they feel very real. And because we've lived in them for so long, they feel even more real! But the overarching message of the piece is about female friendship and the things that they go through and how they've helped each other through it. We've had so many people come chat to us and be like, “Oh, my goodness, I had a really similar experience in uni!”

Rebekah: It’s amazing how it’s reached people! 

Bronté: It's really validating.

Rebekah: That’s a really rewarding thing to feel like you’ve added to. 

Bronté: 100%. So it's been fantastic!

And what is it like bringing the show to the West End? 

Bronté: I think we won't feel like it's on until we're on the stage. I mean, this is my official West End debut! It feels extremely special because it's so part of us now.

Rebekah: I have to stop and take stock sometimes to be like, “Oh my goodness, the young Amdram, Southport me that was you know doing stuff and wanting this dream . . .” Especially new stuff! Northern, new comedy musical in the Ambassadors. 

Bronté: It's actually quite bonkers!

Rebekah: You forget because it's work and it’s a whirlwind and you're just in the zone. And then sometimes I just remind myself to stop and feel so grateful for that. I suppose when it's a slow burn, you don't notice it as much. And then suddenly we are noticing! When we get to that press night, we'll know by then whether we've made it or not. [Laughs]

Bronté: And also, it's been extremely hard work! We have to remember it’s been super challenging for everybody involved because that's what it is to make a new show. It's hard graft. We put so much into it to get to this point. And we’re so passionate about it that we're not at the point where we're like, “Yes, it's going to be great.” We want it to be good, we still have so much work to do! So it's gonna be quite amazing to sit and take stock once we're open properly.

Rebekah: Jon [Brittain], the director and writer, often says that his close friend used to say to him, “It's the pressure that makes the diamond.” Cheesy, but true. And it's true, because, we have all wanted to kill each other at certain points. 

Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder!
Rebekah Hinds and Bronté Barbé
Photo Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

What do you hope audiences take away from the Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder?

Rebekah: I like it when people take away completely different things. 

Bronté: Totally!

Rebekah: The beauty of live theatre is that even though you're watching it as one organism, you come away with very different experiences. One person can feel something completely different to the person sitting next to them and I love that. Jon and Matthew [Floyd Jones], as writers, are not people that like to go, “And the message of my show is . . .” You can take a message if you want, but there's no specific message. 

Bronté I love that it's like that it celebrates platonic love, that your love story doesn't have to be a romantic love story. Your friends can be the people who can carry you through you. Your person doesn't have to be your lover, essentially! Friendship and what a friendship can go through and how it can track you through your life, I love that.

And finally, how would you describe Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder in one word? 

Rebekah: Joyous! There's a lot of joy in there. It's such a mix of stuff, like a cartoon! Yeah, it's all really heightened, but then still real. 

Bronté: Joyous is good!

Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder runs from 25 May to 14 September at the Ambassadors Theatre.


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