Jon chatted to us about his musical, co-written with Matthew Floyd Jones and heading back to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before a run at HOME in Manchester and Bristol Old Vic.  

Hi Jon, could you explain what Kathy & Stella Solve a Murder is about? Of course! Kathy and Stella is a comedy murder-mystery musical about two true crime obsessed best friends who have the least successful true crime podcast in Hull. One day, their favourite author is murdered and they take it upon themselves to crack the case (and become global true crime podcasting superstars). Only problem is they have no idea what they’re doing… It’s basically a rip-roaring comedy about true crime fans and whodunnits. But more than that, it’s the story of two best friends who are both, in their own ways, stuck. Kathy is riddled with anxiety after a breakdown years before and Stella is terminally irresponsible and living on her sister’s sofa. The show follows them as the investigation gives them a chance to finally break free of their hang-ups – but moving on might mean growing apart… and the more successful they become, the more their friendship comes under strain. It’s a very silly comedy, but also a genuinely touching love story, an actually quite thrilling murder mystery, it has a PHENOMENAL cast, and it also has some absolute bangers courtesy of composer Matthew Floyd Jones. So yeah, you couldn’t ask for more really!

How did the idea for the musical come about? During lockdown, Matthew and I were failing to write a musical together when one day, during another fruitless writing session, I mentioned an idea I’d had about two true crime fans who try to solve a murder. Matthew immediately leapt on the idea and insisted that we start writing a song for that instead. Over the course of a few weeks, we wrote songs together over zoom and, before long, our characters had emerged and began telling us what the story was. Matthew and I are both fans of true crime and the musical ended up as a big homage / love letter / piss-take of all the stories, documentaries and podcasts we love. There’s bits of the Jinx, the Staircase, Making a Murderer, Don’t Fuck With Cats, Serial and also a strange reality TV show called Murder Island that I was obsessed with. But it’s also a celebration of friendship, of the fun you can have only with your very best friend, and the heartbreak that comes when you start growing apart. 

It can’t be easy trying to make a musical about a true crime podcast – what was your starting point? Well, our previous musical was about depression. So we’re used to making entertaining shows from tricky subject matter. For us, the contrast of fun, upbeat, musical theatre songs and the horrible subject matter of true crime is just really funny. And when you’re finding a project fun to write, it makes it all a lot easier – or at least, it makes you put up with the bits that aren’t easy. I guess the starting point was always the characters for us – who they are, what they want, how they’re funny. Everything in the show came out of the journey we wanted to take them and their friendship on. Their podcast is their happy place – where they can be silly and funny and outrageous together – so it naturally lends itself to being musical. They’re performing for each other and their audience. We just gave them a tune. Finally – the show came out of lockdown, we wouldn’t have written it unless we’d had that time of being stuck at home. As such, we’re not trying to be clever or innovative, we’re just trying our hardest to make the other person laugh. 

What can audiences expect from this version of the show? Big laughs, fantastic songs, severed heads, great rhymes, brilliant performances, a top notch production and a really touching story about friendship. If you came last year, you can expect to see a handful of BRAND NEW songs, as well as a couple of additional plot-twists, and even more Kathy and Stella!

How has it been working on developing Kathy & Stella Solve a Murder? I feel incredibly lucky. Theatre is going through a really difficult period at the moment – particularly for new plays and writers. To be able to develop a full musical and to have it premiere within two years and then return the year after is incredible. A testament to our producer Francesca Moody who is really committed to staging the work she commissions – rather than letting things languish in endless development. But also, I’m very lucky to have had previous opportunities that have prepared me for the job – in particular working on Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho for the last ten years and writing Billionaire Boy the Musical with Miranda Cooper. And, most of all, I’m incredibly lucky to get to work with so many brilliant collaborators. Matthew of course, but also Fabian Aloise – my co-director, the cast – Bronte, Bex, Jodie, Imelda, TJ, Sarah, Jacob and Chelsea, and all the creative team. Personnel-wise, the show is an embarrassment of riches.

How does it feel to be taking the musical back to the Edinburgh Fringe? With the exception of 2012 and 2020, I’ve taken a show to the Edinburgh Fringe for the last seventeen years. It’s a really special place and I wouldn’t be the writer I am without it. Having said that, it’s bittersweet. Partly because it’s the first fringe following the death of my friend Adam Brace, who was such a towering figure as a director of both comedy and theatre. It’ll feel very strange without him. But also, it’s bittersweet because I know that if I were starting out now I would find it much more difficult to afford to stage work here. That in turn has an impact on the type of work being made. All I’d say is that, if you’re new to the fringe, go and take some chances on shows. Check out the free fringe, book to see a student show, try out some dance, or anything that’s out of the ordinary for you. The beauty of this festival is in the surprises. Not everything will be great, but take flyers, listen to people’s pitches, you may just stumble upon something you fall head over heels in love with.

By Emma Clarendon

The musical will play at the Edinburgh Fringe from the 2nd to the 27th August, Bristol Old Vic from the 13th to the 30th September and Home in Manchester from the 5th to the 21st October 2023. To find out more and to book tickets visit:


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