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Review: Impresario’s ‘Till Death’

The importance of hash browns, awkward ‘syncopated’ movements and mesmerising vocals

A photo of the cast on stage

Dramatic lines emphasising the importance of hash browns, awkward ‘syncopated’ movements and mesmerising vocals drew in cacophonies of laughter and silences of awe. 

Directed by Pauline Tiffany Wong, the Impresario’s Players, comprising mainly of students from St Paul’s Graduate House and also a few from Santa Sophia Postgraduate College and a few from St Paul’s Undergraduate College, brought the humble small stage of The Refectory, at the Graduate House of St Paul’s College, to life in their rendition of ‘Till Death: A Double Bill” featuring the absurdist play “Jack, or the Submission,” written by twentieth century French-Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco and the comic opera “Trial by Jury,” where the libretto was written by Gilbert and Sullivan which refers to nineteenth century Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the English dramatist W. S. Gilbert and the English composer Arthur Sullivan.

Divided into two distinct parts, the two plays took on two different characters, where the first play “Jack, or the Submission” opened up with a dramatic scene which saw how Jack (Hayden Randall) was extensively forced into a corner by his highly dysfunctional family to state ‘I love hash browns.’ Embedded with nonsensical exchanges, an abundance of surreal conceits and highly distorted subversions of the traditional family roles, the actors transport the audiences into another realm of time as Jack’s arranged marriage to Roberta I (Tiffany Wong) goes haywire and he settles for Roberta II (also Tiffany Wong) through a bizarre exchange of anecdotes that was everything weird and wacky. 

Old Grandpa and Grandma Jack (Kieran Cook and sock puppet) were a highlight of the first half, where arbitrary wheezy and croaky utterances of distant memories or comedic renditions of pop songs cut through the distressful complaints and the pitiful moaning of Jack’s mother (Jeanne Hamman). Despite having only a humble small rectangle for a stage, Jack’s father (Codey Swadling) utilised it effectively, often jutting from corner to corner and using extensive hand gestures to expand the stage’s sphere through his repetitive declarations of disownment of family members when he encounters the most ridiculous conflicts. 

After a short intermission, the stage took a colourful transition to open to the opera “Trial by Jury,” where Angelina (Natalie Klug) sues Edwin (James Andrews) in a lawsuit concerning a breach of promise of marriage when he quickly pursues another girl in the name of boredom. Dashing and brightly coloured costumes lightened the mood and despite offering to marry both girls in the heat of the distressful situation, Edwin’s suggestion is rejected on the grounds of bigamy. After Edwin claims to be a violent drunkard, the Judge (Elise Morton) suggests intoxicating him and observe his behaviour towards Angelina! Upon receiving a majority in objections to this, the impatient Judge declares to marry Angelina in a final effort to bring the trial to a close which fittingly suited everyone.

Flowing between different musical numbers accompanied by the pianist Marceline Gomez, James and Natalie took the stage strongly in their lyrical lines while the witnesses bobbed up and down in the background, in an awkwardly yet comically ‘syncopated’ manner. Tying the piece together, Elise’s powerful vocals left the audience in awe while the judge and the legal system became objects of light-hearted satire. 

It is highly commendable that in the short span of merely four weeks, the play was skilfully brought together, uniting members of St Paul’s Graduate House together with other members of the collegiate sphere. 

A resounding round of applause echoed through the Refectory, revealing yet again another successful play presented by The Impresario and Her Players.