Sota Drama Centre, March 29 - April 7
IF Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries are your cup of bitter tea, then mark your calendar for 8 Women. The darkly comic whodunnit is directed by Samantha Scott-Blackhall and has an all-women cast featuring the likes of Tan Kheng Hua, Neo Swee Lin, Serene Chen and Daisy Irani.
8 Women was meant to be staged on Women's Day next Friday, but scheduling conflicts forced the production to open only on March 29 - which is just as well since most of the characters in 8 Women aren't the sisterly, sentimental sort to share group hugs and childhood scrapbooks a la Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
If anything, these women see each other as rivals and are quick to point fingers when the man of the house, Marcel, is found dead with a dagger stuck in his back. Since there's no butler to pin the blame on, the eight women, variously related to the French man, become instant suspects.
There is Marcel's cold-hearted Singaporean wife (Tan Kheng Hua), her unhappy sister (Serene Chen) and her miserly mother (Neo Swee Lin). Marcel's two Eurasian daughters (Sophie Wee and Julia Abueva) are not above suspicion; nor are his seductive French chambermaid (Morgane Stroobant), devoted Indian housekeeper (Daisy Irani) or fast-living sister (Kimberly Creasman) .
The women are trapped in Marcel's gorgeous country house in France that's been snowed under, and the phone lines are dead. Thus, the women must identify the killer before she strikes again - or perhaps, before their own oestrogen-fuelled hissing and clawing do them in. Interestingly, the all-women cast of 8 Women is a marked departure for Scott-Blackhall, who usually directs all-male casts in plays like Lord of the Flies, Freud's Last Session and Das Experiment.
She says: "Typically, the male characters in the plays I direct are very practical and not often ruled by emotions. So this is an interesting change for me because these women characters are written with issues of vanity, jealousy and age-related insecurities - not really issues I've dealt with."
Producer Nathalie Ribette says: "Though 8 Women was originally written in French by Robert Thomas in 1972, we found many parallels between its social milieu and the Singapore upper-class; these women are equivalent of classic tai tais."
Indeed, the 2002 French film version of the same name features a breathless constellation of screen stars which includes Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert and Fanny Ardant fabulously camping it up.
Adds Ribette: "What really drew me to the play was that each of the women characters present various versions of womanhood - as mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, servants, and so on. That strikes me as similar to my own situation: I'm a mother of three kids, a wife to my husband, and a theatre producer that founded Sing Theatre. I have no rest, no time for myself, and I have so many roles to juggle.
"So in a sense, the play is perfect for Women's Day."
8 Women presented by Sing Theatre plays at School of the Arts' Drama Centre (1 Zubir Said Drive) from March 29 to April 7. Tue to Fri, 8pm, Sat & Sun, 3pm & 8pm. Tickets from $55 from Sistic