Sing’theatre’s latest offering is a murder mystery comedy, 8 Women, which was written in French by Robert Thomas and translated into English by Donald Sturrock. It will be playing at SOTA Drama Theatre until April 7.
Directed by Samantha Scott-Blackhall, this play tells the tale of the murder of the husband of a household and how all in the family become suspects. However, because of heavy snowfall and inaccessibility to the house, the family has to rely on each other to solve the murder. The family consists of a wife (Tan Kheng Hua) and her two daughters Suzanne (Sophie Wee) and Catherine (Julia Abueva); the wife’s sister (Serene Chen) and mother (Neo Swee Lin); two maids, played by Daisy Irani and Morgane Stroobant; and a sister-in-law, played by Kimberly Creasman, who arrives later in the story.
Through recollections, the characters piece together what each has seen, at times lying and at times having their lies challenged by other family members who know better.
Although this formula of recollection-lying-denial-proof-truth gets a bit tiresome as each character’s revelation seems to follow this pattern, especially as the first act is finishing, the second act brings about a lot of physical comedy that is ably carried out by actresses Daisy Irani, Serene Chen and Neo Swee Lin.
All three ladies brought roaring laughter from the audience; they have natural comedic timing and are able to effectively incorporate physical comedy into their funny dialogues. From Chen’s dramatic hypochondriac breakdowns, to Irani’s frustrated gesturing and jabbering in Hindi, and then to Neo’s alcoholic ramblings and nerves, there are many moments in the second act that bring great hilarity to the otherwise repetitive and formulaic script device described the paragraph above.
Having said that, Tan plays her motherly character yet again with an air of austerity and a speck of arrogance, the same way she seems to portray all of her characters, be it on television or stage. Abueva has a constant scowl on her face in the first half of the play, which gets a tad tedious after awhile. The ingenue probably needs more experience and skill to present more variety in her expressions.
Wee is understated, natural and convincing as the daughter who returns home to find her father dead, whilst Stroobant and Creasman are believable but a little too restrained in their roles.
The set, designed by Wong Chee Wai, is spectacular with its staircase, upstairs walls and rooms, downstairs living room, windows, ornate door, period furniture, decorative wallpaper, wall sconces, and movable walls and floors. Bani Haykal provides music and sound effects that not only accompany the story well, but envelop the audience even further into the plot by adding ambiance and atmosphere.
Of course all of this is to the credit of Scott-Blackhall who impresses with her skillful, creative and innovative direction as seen in her usage of shadows and light to amplify the suspenseful circumstances and mysterious manor we and the characters find ourselves in. With such an aura created, it’s easy indeed to immerse yourself in this exciting and enjoyable murder-mystery.