By Lye Han Jun (13A01A)
One cannot be faulted for expecting, from the promotional materials for the play, something with a bit more gravitas. The red-black-white colour scheme, the unsmiling cast photo: standard fare for a murder mystery with a psychopath lurking in the shadows. Making your way to your seat in the TSD room entails groping around a thick black shroud, your path lit by a few dinky glowsticks on the floor, à la a makeshift haunted house. The stage manager’s warning to the back row of audience members to take care not to fall off the platform seems to be part of the setup, until the curtains rise and you realize that she’s not doing this to create atmosphere – there is in fact a very real danger of audience members toppling off the platform in a violent fit of laughter.
The Bold, the Young, and the Murdered is actually a comedy written by Don Zolidis, about a soap opera called The Bold and The Young. The alpha-woman executive producer (played by Anne Ng) locks the cast in to finish filming an episode overnight and shenanigans ensue. Cast members are killed off like it’s going out of style and the remaining actors might identify and stop the murderer before they are all killed.
As a parody of maudlin soap operas, the entire play can be summed up pithily as “so bad it’s good”. You can tell Players had a lot of fun doing the terrible soap opera scenes. The tacky sound effects and campy D-list acting worked to great effect, and had the audience in spasms for the duration of the play. The concept of overkill had no place on the stage, and even the rather heavy-handed running gag of various actors throwing themselves on their knees, raising their arms to the heavens and screaming “Nooooo!” managed to illicit a response each time it was used. There may be lines that make all sense of refinement shrivel up and die inside you, but you have to admit they’re comedic gold all the same. We take our hats off to the actors for managing to not crack up at their own ridiculous characters and lines.
CYBIL. And who do I have to kill to get some water around here?
MORRIS. No one! No one’s killing anyone!
CYBIL. Well where’s my water? Am I going to have to go milk a cow myself?
(Everyone looks at her.)
In the old days, if you wanted water you went out to a cow and milked it.
Out of all the soap opera cast members, John Burke seemed to be the funniest worst actor. This may seem rather a dubious honour, but we assure you it is rightfully earned. The utter villainy of the machinations of his soap opera character is only amplified by the way his eyes pop out of his skull with every melodramatic line he delivers.
But the prize for all-around best actor would have to go to Shrey Bhargava, who portrayed Morris Nyborg, an insecure, has-been hunk who is an absolute riot in jeans a size too small for him (fodder for a joke in which he tries to convince the director to let him have padding sewn onto the butt; he does it without the director’s assent anyway). We also wanted to see more of Oli, the overbearing director of The Bold and the Young (played by Caitlan Miew) but unfortunately she was the first one to go.
The thing about this play, though, is that being all about substandard actors, it’s easier to disguise actual shortcomings of the play as intentional. The motley crew hamming it up on stage was a bit of an ensemble cast of various stock characters: the bimbo airhead (done to death); the recently discharged mental asylum patient; the sleazeball who hits on everybody. While there is some comedic value in every character, a few of them came across as rather flat and we cannot help but feel that they were somewhat superfluous.
The play lost a bit of steam at times. The scene where one of the characters is revealed to be an FBI agent and tries to carry out a very incompetent investigation was still funny, but rather lukewarm and draggy as cast members went round in circles trying to identify the murderer. Certain scenes relied too much on the acting chops of a couple of good actors to move the story forward. Perhaps the play could have been tightened by removing a character or two, and shortening some scenes in the original script.
Nonetheless, the audience seemed to have enjoyed themselves tremendously. Players has managed to produce a humorous and straightforward slapstick that audience members will probably continue to quote jokes from till the cows come home (for Cybil Dane to milk).
Disclosure: The writer’s ticket was sponsored by Raffles Players. Pictures by Seet Yun Teng.