Seven Scenes from Seven Plays in Seventy Shades
Straits Times Life
PUBLISHED ON MAY 12, 2015 12:39 AM 1 0 0 0
BY ONG KAI XUAN
Briton Paul Heath has performed only in school plays.
But in his debut stage production, the 30-year-old would have to perform four roles from four plays whose stories traverse different time periods in 21/2 hours in one night.
Seventy Shades Of Play is a production that pieces together seven scenes from seven established works into one coherent play.
It celebrates 70 years of amateur group The Stage Club, Singapore’s oldest theatre company. The works chosen are from various time periods and written by different playwrights and authors.
One scene from each work was picked to be staged, with minor modifications made to them.
The scenes come from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1400), Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1602), Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest (1895), Noel Coward’s Private Lives (1930), Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead (1966), Alan Aykbourn’s How The Other Half Loves (1969) and Keith Waterhouse’s Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell (1989).
Heath, who works here as an offshore shipbroker, will play roles in the works of Wilde, Shakespeare, Coward and Stoppard.
While he is not the only cast member to take on more than one role, the amateur actor is playing the most number of characters.
He, like the other actors, auditioned for the play. The roles require him to switch between time periods from the 1600s to the 19th and 20th centuries.
But he does not foresee any problem. “I think the way the performance is arranged gives enough separation between scenes,” he says. “Besides, with so much time spent on rehearsing, I’ll associate certain characters with the cast members around me. Once I see them, I’ll slip into that character.”
The seven works were picked with the theme of comedy in mind and will be artfully weaved together by musical interludes between each scene. The compilation also tells a bigger story about the evolution of British theatre, says head director Elena Scherer.
But in each scene – lasting an average of 15 minutes – the cast of more than 100 are expected to flesh out their characters as portrayed in the original works.
In a play, which typically runs for at least 90 minutes, actors have more time to do so.
Heath explains: “We have to condense the characters’ personalities, histories and individualities very quickly. We have to perform strongly enough to make sure the audience understands their motivations.”
But the four directors – Scherer, an Australian who has lived in Singapore for 27 years, Nick Perry, a 60-year-old Briton, Gavin Low, a 37-year-old Singaporean, and Nick Kenny, a 31-year-old Briton – are confident they can pull it off.
While Perry – he directs the scenes from The Canterbury Tales and How The Other Half Loves – admits that having four directors “complicates organisation”, Scherer – she helms the scene from the Stoppard play- says “each director’s scene is his own”, so there have not been disagreements.
It is a little more challenging for the cast, though.
Jasmine Buckingham, a 31-year-old Canadian who sings the musical interludes and has two acting roles, says: “It’s challenging because you work with different directors in different scenes and you have to make each director happy. But it’s nice to have different people and different outlooks.”
Scherer feels that having different directors can make the performance more interesting for the audience.
The directors like different parts of the performance, and Scherer and Perry say their favourite parts would be in the scenes directed by them.
Scherer’s favourite part of her scene was what she described as a “verbal tennis match”.
“It’s hilarious because it’s very quick and witty. The actors really have to think and be in the scene, they can’t just memorise their lines and walk onto the stage.”