By Arissa Binte Kamaruzaman (24A01A) and Camillia Anum Mohamad Ashraff (24S03B)
Photographs courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society and Raffles Players
On 13 May 2023, Raffles Players held their annual College Production at RI’s very own Performing Arts Centre. This year, they staged a sold-out show of Clue.
Three months on, Raffles Press looks back on the production, as well as its journey to the stage from two perspectives: the audience (Arissa) and Raffles Players themselves (Camillia).
Arissa: Impressions on Clue
I first imagined Clue to be a neat and brain-teasing production based on my experience playing the physical board game for long hours. The game had always left with me a surge of adrenaline as I drifted between the rooms; I was aware of the motion of characters named in varying shades: the slyness of Scarlet and the mysteriousness of Mustard.
When my deskmate was cast as one of the titular characters, Colonel Mustard, I became more intrigued by what the production had to offer. Day by day, I became more acquainted with Clue’s cleverly written quips and comebacks, from the little I managed to glean from my deskmate’s reading of the script. And while the plot still eluded me, I sensed that it harboured more than just the neat riddles of a typical mystery. Enigmatic from the title itself, perhaps the production was designed for the audience to enter clueless, but clue-rious in untangling its complexities.
Camillia: D-14 to Clue and Counting
While the audience barely had a clue as to what the production would be about, Players was hard at work. Contrary to what some may think, putting up a production involves far more than just the cast and their acting. We make most of our props and sets, we source the costumes and do makeup ourselves, and we plan and control the lights and sounds too. Add on publicity and stage management, and it’s certainly a lot of work for under 30 people to do within a few months.
Behind the scenes of clue!
It’s no secret that each Player had a deep emotional investment in this production. It was exhausting, but it was rewarding at the same time. The company and our passion made things smoother even as CCA sessions slowly increased from once to thrice a week and eventually every day during the week leading up to Clue. The occasional prop-making karaoke sessions definitely helped too.
Every production isn’t without its challenges and crises. But imagine this: production week is around the corner. During a rehearsal, one of the main actors has a sore throat, and it turns out to be COVID. We panicked—what was our Plan B? Would anyone else fall ill too? Thus began a CCA-wide mask-wearing mandate, and a lot of hard work to replace Mr Green in one week.
Granted, some challenges are more common than others. The day before Clue, we all settled down to hear the final debrief of the day. The air was abuzz with lighthearted jokes and excitement—we were only one sleep away from Clue! But instead of a quick debrief, we were met with a wake-up call.
Our most recent run lacked energy and passion: the cast was forgetting lines and the crew was forgetting their cues, yet we were all oblivious to how much we were slacking.
If we settled for the standard we were at, would we be proud to put on our show? Were we the Raffles Players we wanted to show our audience tomorrow night? We had been slacking and getting complacent, and if we didn’t get our act together, we would be met with a failed show.
Tears were shed and hugs were given. But we all left school that evening determined to return better the next day.
Arissa: Pre-Curtains’ Excitement
Without a doubt, there was fever-pitch excitement among the dimly lit, but the homely Performing Arts Centre (PAC), which for that singular night, had been transformed into the beautifully imagined, uncanny exterior of the Boddy Manor.
I arrived with a group of classmates, but while we made our way to the PAC, we were immediately greeted by the sight of a snaking queue—family, friends, and alumni who had taken time off that night to support the Players’ performance. It was a beautiful sight of a community of people, eager to celebrate the final staging of the show.
When I came up to the front of the line, there was a curation of photocards of each of the main characters, as well as a Clue-themed ticket that could be taken home as souvenirs!
Camillia: The Calm Before the Storm
We came to the PAC early on Saturday morning, filled with nerves and excitement for the show to come. The morning was relatively quiet and slow as the Y5s prepared the Front of House—the first area you see when you enter the PAC. I hadn’t fully processed that Clue was happening that very night, because at 8am it felt so far away.
As the day got into full swing, I became increasingly aware of just how fast time seemed to pass. One hour of scene work felt like five minutes, and before I knew it, it was lunchtime.
By afternoon, it had begun to set in that we were putting up a show in just a few hours. The atmosphere was tense: stagehands trying to decrease transition timings between scenes, actors running over their scripts repeatedly, and Lights and Sounds constantly updating their cue sheets.
But as we neared showtime, it began to get eerily quiet. The PAC was largely empty as actors did their final touch-ups in the Theatre Studies Room (TSD), Front of House got ready to welcome guests, and stagehands did their final rehearsals outside. I stepped out of the control room and sat on the stage, running my eyes over the rows of empty seats that I knew would be filled in an hour. It was equally soothing and anxiety-inducing to know that that moment was truly the calm before the storm.
Soon, the Players would gather for our final pep talks. Audience members would begin trickling into the PAC, and we would take our places. A place that had fallen silent would come alive. And I couldn’t wait to watch it happen.
Arissa: A Witty Tale of Murder and Mystery
The beginning of the play—a fusion of a whimsical play of colours on the screen and an enigmatic voiceover—set forth a tense atmosphere that sustained throughout the two hours.
I was deeply impressed by the attention to detail of the set as the curtains opened—antique furniture, uncanny portraits on the wall, and the careful balance of lighting that recalibrated itself each time a character entered a monologue or exited the stage.
While I was unsure of the context behind the inhabitants of the ‘Boddy Manor’ due to the fast pace of exposition, the play was nevertheless accessible throughout. It started on a sure footing, in its seamless build-up towards the plot’s core: the dinner scene.
When each character entered the manor before the dinner, I found myself roaring in laughter at their quips and idiosyncrasies, be it Colonel Mustard’s awkward gait and salute, or the sporadic literary quotes from the Victorian-obsessed Miss Peacock. The actors and actresses ingeniously brought these characters to life—embracing their, unique personalities in all their depth and breadth.
In the dinner scene, the characters brought forth an electric synergy—concealing their motives in subtext, and then teasing one another relentlessly, until eventually, one would cave into confessing small nuggets of information. I was on tenterhooks for what would occur next; the tension only built up until the deafening resound of a gunshot that marked the first death of the night (yes, there would be more than one death).
The unnerving experience of watching the litany of murders was comfortably matched with a rich use of humour—tangibly in its props and blocking; intangibly, in its dialogue. I recall fondly the surprise at seeing the stuffed toy thrown from behind the set, which was meant to be the death of the Manor’s cat. In one particular scene, all the characters were set in a freeze frame of emotions, garnering loud guffaws from the audience as Professor Plum’s legs wobbled incessantly out of fear.
Amidst the plot’s admittedly confounding twists and turns, the final unravelling of the mystery made a lasting impression on me. To be frank, I wasn’t expecting much from the ending—I pride myself on being observant enough to solve most mysteries in novels and on-screen before its conclusion. But this mystery eluded me, even with the most obvious of red herrings interspersed across the plotline.
I left this production certainly awed, by its accomplishment of a daring plot that was infused with warmth and wit, yet never failing to inject clue-riosity every step of the way.
Camillia: As the Curtain Falls
One may think that putting on a show after so many months of rehearsals would be boring for the crew behind the production. In reality, the show was electrifying and unexpected for us too. There were so many improvised moments and ad-libbed lines that made us worried and made us laugh. Therein lies the beauty of a live show—it will never be exactly the same each time you do it.
I remember how my heart soared hearing the audience’s cheers and laughs for the first time. Ask any Player, and I am sure they would tell you the same. Comedy is one of the hardest genres to pull off; we were so worried that our delivery and timing wouldn’t be funny enough.
It was truly magical to share a part of our souls with hundreds of people that night, in the form of a comedic murder mystery. Admittedly, it was not perfect, but it was definitely worth being proud of.
And as the curtains fell for the last time that night, accompanied by the iconic Clue jazz, I couldn’t help but smile. Even though I couldn’t bow with the rest of my CCA during the curtain call, I still felt so much happiness and pride. Seeing a standing ovation and hearing all the cheers was so fulfilling and invigorating. It made all the late nights and long rehearsals worth all the effort.
After the show, I scrambled to save my lighting files and pack my things. The night was not over yet—after moving all the props back to the TSD, there was still a meet and greet with the audience, followed by a debrief.
By then, the audience had already gathered outside the TSD, eagerly awaiting all the Players they had come to support. Screams of excitement and loud chatter filled the air, which greatly contrasted with the almost deafening quiet inside the TSD itself. It was completely void of people, save for the few Players rushing in and out.
I breathed a sigh of relief. That night had been our best run yet and it was hard to believe it was over. I exchanged tired smiles and long hugs with my batchmates—words failed me, but I knew they understood what I was trying to say. We would soon step back out into the noise, showered with support from everyone we loved. But I knew I would remember the moment we shared just before better than any other.
I was more than just proud of my Players friends that night—I felt moved and inspired by the hard work and dedication that they’d put in to bring this production to life; having listened to their weekly stories of long rehearsals and last-minute changes in the lead-up to their final showcase.
In the walkway outside the TSD was an overwhelming celebration of all the cast and backstage crew; not just for their production, but for the precious talents that they truly are. All around was a tableau of love—some gripped tightly onto freshly bought tulips while embracing their families; others screamed in high octaves as their friends emerged out of the room, visibly exhausted but beaming in delight.
It is difficult to encompass an experience like Clue in words. There are countless stories to tell, and each Player will have a different perspective on this production. If nothing else, we are tied together by our unending love for theatre, and for each other.
“To see this come to life was mind-boggling. I still revisit the recording of the play unreasonably often, like a proud and overzealous parent,” said Ben Tan (23A01A), one of the lovely directors of Clue.
“Rushing lines and learning cues in one week was very pressurising,” the other director, Ezann Ng (23S03J), adds. She took on the role of Mr Green after the original actor, Tessa, caught COVID. “But every time someone says that I fit the role, I don’t know whether to feel honoured or offended. It’s a weird mixture of both.”
For me, Clue was a wish granted. I rejoined Players with the promise of a full-scale production—I had not been part of one since 2019. Clue reminded me why I love theatre so much, and why performing (albeit not onstage) is so electrifying.
I am reminded of these wonderful memories when I see the long paragraphs and countless photos on social media, and I am reminded of them as I write this article. It’s beyond me how it has already been over three months since Clue happened. I look back on it with a different kind of fondness, after so much time has passed.
When I think of Clue, I think of the thousand-dollar door, hugs after each PAC run and painting props together. I find myself forgetting what pseudonyms are (not antihistamines), and quoting random Shakespeare lines (She should have died hereafter!).
This production will certainly be a lot to live up to, as my batch looks toward our very own College Production next year. But it has also inspired me, and shown me that anything is possible if you are willing to put your mind to it.
Perhaps it is only fitting to end with a line from the show’s hero of sorts:
“I’ll tell you, this was the most exciting night I’ve had in a long time.”Mr Green
Watch CLUE: A Raffles Players Production here: https://youtu.be/fyqALhPilD4