Written by Poh De Sheng
Edited by Shalom Alexandra
I have to admit that I don’t know much about live theatre. The last play I voluntarily went to see was during a different millennium. So when my editor asked me if I wanted to cover the annual KE7 hall play, I naturally accepted without as much as a second thought. After all, who better than me to cover such an important event on the hall calendar?
Of course, I had purchased a ticket even before I was assigned to cover the play. There were numerous reasons for this, as listed below by order of importance:
- The hall play tickets came in a bundle deal (read; discounted price) with the other hall productions. The part of my brain responsible for logic and sound decision making was overridden by my overwhelmingly Singaporean desire not to pay full price. My eyes glazed over and I forked out the cash before my friend could slap me out of my stupor.
- The play was being staged at the University Cultural Centre (UCC). I had never been there before and I wanted to see how it looked like.
- Attending the play would be a convenient excuse to not study for one night.
- There were a couple of my friends involved in the play, and I wanted to support them in my own small way.
So it was that, on a cool Friday evening, I headed off to the UCC to cast my discerning eye over the hall play.
Having heard from a reliable source that ticket sales this year weren’t as strong as last year’s, I entered the theatre expecting a sparse crowd. However, despite the gloomy forecast, the venue was actually packed to the brim, due probably to the heroic efforts of the ticketing and marketing team.👏👏
With the theatre close to full house, there was a palpable sense of expectation and energy all around me. As the lights dimmed and a crew member announced the imminent commencement of the play, someone in the audience bellowed, “GO RUSSELL!” This set off a cacophony of cheers for the various cast members as the curtains were drawn back.
In the interest of time, I won’t be going through the production play by play, for lack of a better expression. Instead, there will be a short synopsis of the story as well as a coverage of major points. I’ll then give my expert opinion on how I found the experience overall.
For the uninitiated, the play being staged by our hall was mystery-comedy “The Bold, the Young and the Murdered” (BYM), written by Don Zolidis. And for our very own KE7 edition, it was produced and directed by the holy trio below.
The story revolves around the dysfunctional cast and crew of cheesy soap opera The Young and the Bold. It begins with the long suffering director struggling desperately with a disgruntled and self-absorbed cast, uncooperative crew members and a pesky new intern to realise his creative vision. Faced with flagging viewership and poor productivity, he is issued an ultimatum by the show’s executive producer: complete one episode in one night or the show dies. Locked in the studio for the night, he sets about attempting to corral performances from his charges, only for people to start dying under mysterious circumstances. Shock! Intrigue! Suspense! Comedy!
Obviously, going through the plot points would be a meaningless exercise if I didn’t introduce you to the characters in the play. So in no particular order:
Oli (played by Joshua Xie)
The long suffering director of the show. Struggles continually with an uncooperative cast and crew to bring his suspect creative vision to life.
Keri (played by Adila Shahrin)
The airheaded new intern who appears without prior notification. Her relentless enthusiasm only serves to infuriate Oli even more.
Miles (played by Ong Sue Hwee)
The thoroughly unimpressed executive producer of the show. Orders Oli to increase the quality and quantity of the show because of stiff competition from China, and proceeds to lock cast and crew inside the studio for the night.
Brooke (played by Eleen Lee)
A mostly apathetic camerawoman who sometimes likes to chime in with acting tips. Impervious to conventional weaponry.
Kaitlin (played by Liu Yang)
The overworked and disgruntled stage manager.
Morris Nyborg (played by Simon Gwozdz)
A has-been former heart-throb, suffering from saggy buttocks and pointy nipples. Portrays the protagonist of the show, Jake Strong
Lily Baumgartner (played by Ethanyn Lim)
A person best described as a loose screw. Also plays disposable damsel in distress Sequoiya on the show.
Bill Wiley (played by Alvin Ng)
A playboy on and off screen, portrays Jake Strong’s brother, Sebastian, on the show.
Danielle Farris (played by Zest Ang)
A ditzy novice actress who has yet to experience the crushing disenchantment felt by some of the longer serving members of the show. Portrays Jessica Silverstedt, primary love interest of the protagonists.
Cybil Dane (played by Sharon Kaur)
Years of experience on the show have only served to aggravate her propensity for overacting. Plays stereotypical elderly woman Mona Jeffries.
John Burke (played by Russell Lim)
The epitome of a grumpy old man. Always asking Oli for soup. Plays main antagonist Valencio Di Carpathio.
Amy White (played by Saiabirami Mathivannan)
Gamely partakes in whichever scene she’s in, but otherwise treats her co-workers with absolute disdain. Plays ill-defined mother figure/ love interest Eileen Silverstedt.
Tyler Tripodo (played by Bao Xiao)
An egotistical and self – absorbed character who believes he is destined for greater things beyond a crummy soap opera. Portrays shady doctor William Bradley.
After being locked in the studio, Oli tries to get the cast to cooperate with him in shooting some scenes. Tyler attempts multiple times to sneak in lines from a movie he is auditioning for into the taping. By some cosmic coincidence, the movie is titled “Death Warrant”.
There is also constant bickering between the cast and crew as well as requests for soup from John. Despite the mayhem, Oli manages to complete a few scenes, one of which was probably the best parts of the show.
As Doctor William drugs both Cybil and his girlfriend Sequoiya, he calls out – “Oh nurse, I believe we have another candidate for a…KIDNEY TRANSPLANT! *cue maniacal laughter*” Oli yells cut and comments on the pathetic quality of the laugh, while the rest of the cast on stage each chipped in with their own evil laughter. The audience could not help but guffaw along at the absurdity of the plot and the exaggerated faces of the actors.
Soon, Oli called for a break. However, he is hounded incessantly by Keri, who declares her ambition to emulate him as closely as she can. Eventually, Oli manages to get rid of her, sinking into his chair in a meditative state as the lights dim. Suddenly, an unidentifiable assailant emerges from the shadows and bludgeons Oli to death!
The cast return to resume the taping, only to find Oli lying dead on the floor. Bill shrieks piteously.
Meanwhile. Kaitlin gleefully assumes the role of director.
The cast ruminate briefly about the possible identity of the killer, with Lily accusing Danielle of killing Oli for acting practice, of all things. However, the accusation is quickly put to bed by Bill, who confesses to listening to Danielle’s dressing room door as he made out with Amy outside. Despite Morris’ protests and the sudden loss of cellphone service, Kaitlin orders Oli’s body to be removed so that filming can continue. Keri is promoted to stage manager and made to drag Oli’s lifeless corpse out of view.
The next scene starts off with only Morris and Amy on camera. After some dialogue between the two about love and sexy walking, a doorbell rings. Right on cue, Lily bursts through a door into the scene, only to collapse onto the floor. Morris bends over and finds a knife stuck in her gut. She’s dead! Amy accuses Morris of using a slow acting knife to kill Lily, a claim immediately rubbished by the latter.
Morris summons everyone onstage. However, both cast and crew seem supremely unconcerned by this second death, with Tyler commenting that Lily’s part wasn’t even that important anyway.
Kaitlin says that the murderers win if the shooting of the show if stopped, eliciting a verbal face-palm from Morris. Keri volunteers to take over Lily’s part, having memorized all her lines backstage and had a replica costume made to her measurements. No one shares Morris’ suspicions about Keri.
As shooting resumes, Kaitlin becomes frustrated with the lack of suspense in the scenes. She orders lighting to be dimmed around the set, and for the actors to be handed fake weapons with live bullets in them.
As the actors make their way backstage, Kaitlin calls for some sound effects. A thunder crash is heard, followed by a gun shot. Bill stumbles onto the set clutching his abdomen. Pointing backstage, he attempts to reveal the identity of his shooter, but dies before he can finish his sentence! Morris once again pleads with the cast to identify the killer as the first act ends.
Following the deaths of various cast members, Keri fills in for them one by one, acting as both Sequoiya and a gender-swapped (yeah, don’t ask) Samantha Strong – previously Sebastian Strong.
Valencio provides the audience with a 3 minute monologue about his venture into evil – disillusioned in Disneyland Florida after he saw Mickey Mouse remove his head, he pledged his life to villainy.
Cybil demands some water before her next scene, asking if she has to milk a cow to obtain hydration. Keri hands Cybil some water, which she downs before proceeding to shoot the scene. However, in the middle of the scene where Doctor William attempts to propose to Sequoiya, Cybil suddenly starts hacking and coughing, collapsing on the floor. As Cybil thrashed wildly on the ground, the powder used to whiten her hair (that imparted transient ageing effects) formed a tiny dust cloud on stage.
While the audience chortled at the sight, Cybil finally lay motionless. Tyler protests against the unscripted fake death, but soon realises that Cybil has been poisoned and is /actually/ dead.
The cast and crew gather onstage once more after this new murder. Plot twist! Amy reveals herself to be a “deep undercover” FBI agent, but is incapable of even remembering how many murders took place. Morris brings up a reasoned case for Keri being the murderer, an argument which everyone firmly rejects based on Keri’s own refusal to own up to the murders. Tyler postulates that Morris is a woman hater due to his saggy buttocks.
The discussion soon devolves into mutual finger pointing and accusations, which is interrupted when Brooke falls over with a knife in her back! Amy, believing it to be Morris’ slow acting knife at work again, begins to place him under arrest when Brooke hoists herself up from the floor. She was shielded from the knife by the heavily padded clothing she was wearing.
Brooke attempts to reveal the identity of her would-be killer, but is immediately laid low again, this time by a gunshot. Miles enters the stage and reveals herself to be the killer.
Plot twist! The killings were all a ploy on her part to raise interest in the show. She threatens to frame anyone who attempts to tell the truth as the killer, while offering fame and fortune for those who cooperate. With the exception of Morris, everyone seems agreeable to her offer.
As Miles corners a cowering Morris, she crumples to the floor, revealing a knife sticking out from her back. As the cast begin to fawn over Morris’ slow knife technique, Keri informs everyone that she was responsible for killing Miles. With the real killer (and erstwhile executive producer) now dead, Keri assumes the role of producer for the show. Excitedly discussing the future direction of the show, the cast and crew exit the studio, leaving only Keri behind.
Plot twist again! Miles isn’t dead after all (alas, “Doctor” William did not perform his “autopsy” properly). She reveals herself to be Keri’s mother, and was an accomplice to Keri’s murder of the cast members at her beloved daughters’ request.
With Keri now holding multiple coveted roles on the show, Miles is now free to pursue an even more diabolical career path; movie producing. With a lonely spotlight overhead, Keri embraced her mother and turned to the audience. In a voice more demented than the character she played, she ended the play with the twisted words –
Having had been forced to sit through my fair share of truly cringe-worthy school plays, watching BYM was a case of hoping for the best and expecting the worst. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the production. Despite some members of the cast not having any acting experience, I thought everyone pulled their weight, acting with confidence and delivering their lines almost flawlessly (how all of them were able to memorise well over an hour’s worth of dialogue is beyond me). This was no mean feat considering that some of the actors had to switch between two or even three characters at the drop of a coin. Special mention though has to go to Russell for his comically overwrought Italian accent, which was as impressive as it was funny.
Of course, it would be remiss of me to neglect the good work done by the costumes department. The clothes worn by the cast helped to define and distinguish their characters, while the make up convinced the audience that Russell and Sharon were crinkled septuagenarians and not the sprightly young whippersnappers that they are. Credit too to the tech and stage crew for ensuring that everything from comical sound effects and the drawing of the curtains happened on cue.
Tl;dr, it was a great show. And if you weren’t there, well, you should have been 😉
Hallplay 14/15 thanks everyone who supported the production in one way or another. See you next year!
Photos courtesy of KE vision and Google search