Cordelia Butters is not a murderer. Right, are we all clear on that? Cordelia Butters is NOT a murderer.
Cordelia Butters (Sarah Kempton) is a well-meaning and sincere, but wildly unsuccessful, podcast host. She has decided that as her husband loves true crime podcasts, she’ll create one, using it to reconnect with him and paper over some issues in their marriage. Luckily for her, there has been a woman murdered. Cordelia has decided that the man locked away in jail is innocent and sets out to prove this on her true crime podcast! With her long suffering producer (Nicola Lucey) along for the ride, we fly through Butter’s week-long investigation.
Cordelia Butters Investigates is a comedic take on the true crime podcast genre and its format. Though some jokes elicit (deliberate) groans, many are met with hearty laughter from the audience. Kempton’s satire presents a commentary on the proliferation of true crime podcasts, their format and ubiquity, while also making more than one biting comment about their focus on the murders of women.
An ongoing joke of ads interrupting the flow of the podcast is both funny and obvious, but rather than becoming tired, it gets funnier as the ads keep coming. Some jokes do divide the audience into people who are familiar with true crime series Serial, and in particular The Jinx, and some do land differently with people who know that story.
Kempton has great presence and uses her background as a voiceover artist to great effect but also seems at home in front of an audience. She moves around the stage to deliver the ins and outs of the podcast, make asides to her producer and then head out into the wild to investigate, all with a lot of enthusiasm. Lucey’s portrayal of the producer is dry and humorous, her eye-rolls and sidelong glances adding comedy and nicely contrasting with Kempton. With a cast of just two, the show uses pre-recorded voiceovers very effectively to bring in more characters, and when this goes slightly wrong just for a brief second, the actors turn it into a funny joke. While it does feel like we are watching a cast of characters when Lucey takes on a second role later in the show, an additional actor and a little less voiceover would have had more impact.
While there is a lot of good stuff in the show, there are some confusing moments too. For example, why did the unnamed producer take the messages like that; was it laziness and thoughtlessness or something more sinister? The end of the story leaves us dangling with no clear resolution, and although the show makes for a fun evening that’s full of potential, it would be great to see it a little more developed.
Written by Sarah Kempton
Cordelia Butters Investigates has completed its current run at VAULT Festival 2023.