Let the Dice Roll
With thanks to Mr Ian Thomas
“Take two detectives, a desirable dame, a missing husband, mix in a whole lot of questions and by the time this story’s told, one or more will be dead.”
— Detective Dean Grayson
Set in the retro-styled, yet present day Empire City, this year’s Senior Drama Production, ‘Let the Dice Roll’ was a noir-styled smorgasbord of crime story conventions. From the concept of good cop/bad cop to suspect interviews, red herrings and a cunning femme fatale, the play focussed on the case of a missing billionaire industrialist and those most likely to be involved in his disappearance.
‘We wanted something modern and different that had recognisable characters, and so we thought about the board game, Cluedo,’ said producer-director, Emma Bishop. Without being too literal and infringing trademark law, using the well-known board game, ‘Cluedo’ as a starting point was a challenge. ‘The first place to start was with the characters,’ said script-writer, co-director and Head of Media Studies, Ian Thomas. The most obvious was Miss Scarlet becoming Ruby. From there it was a matter of poring over colour-charts to come up other pseudonyms for the other traditional Cluedo characters. Being a board game, Cluedo offered little in a formula of narrative other than accusing suspects. This leant itself to becoming a police procedural story common to TV shows like CSI and Castle. ‘I wanted to make the story more about the characters and their relationship than the case itself. In doing that, everything was leaning itself more and more toward ‘noir’ - a favourite genre of mine,’ said Mr Thomas.
The disappearance of John Blackett is a ‘macguffin’ – a device to frame the narrative and bring characters together yet not as important as the tension and interplay between characters. Blackett’s much younger and very beautiful wife, Ruby (Chandler Deakin) reports him missing and Detectives Grayson (Jeremy Tant) and Stone (Jay Stothers) proceed to interview a range of suspects – General Colman (Alex Leach); Verdi, the mafia godfather (James Lloyd); Blu, the nightclub owner (Chelsea Wiggall) ; Ava Rice, Blackett’s CEO (Lauren Ford); and Tryian (Peter Carberry), Blackett’s steward, keeping the audience guessing the whole way.
One challenge for production staff and students alike has been remaining true to the Cluedo inspiration by dressing the different characters within the colour palette of the original board game. ‘It’s tricky getting all the costumes right,’ said Abigail Laurent, a Year 13 student in charge of costumes, ‘you’ll see the right costume but it’s the wrong colour. Though just having colours gave us quite a bit of freedom in designing the clothes.’ The key suspects remained true to the original colours of red (Ruby), green (Verdi), white (Rice), blue (Blu), yellow (Colman) and purple (Tyrian).
Common to any crime drama and noir genre are the police. In this instance, the lead detectives and, indeed lead roles, were Detectives Sam Stone and Dean Grayson – fulfilling the traditional good cop/bad cop dynamic. Styled in shades of grey to represent their investigative role in the play, these two are pivotal to the story. Jeremy Tant as the wise-cracking bad boy, Detective Grayson, took on a major role as the scene setter and narrator, linking the action and keeping the audience informed. Seduced by Ruby’s charms, Sam subsequently falls from grace while Dean has a chance for redemption. ‘It’s fun to play Dean’, said Jeremy, ‘as he’s an old-fashioned 1940s rule-breaker who always gets a joke out of any situation.’ Aiding the detectives in the case is plucky reporter, Rosie Wood (Rebekah Philson) who not only provides a strong female lead role but also playful banter and flirtation with Grayson. ‘Playing Rosie has been so cool, she pretty much figures out the whole thing. And has some great lines in the process,’ said Rebekah Philson of her character Rosie Wood. The Chief of Police and Rookie cop, Billy (Isaac Burukh), along with the rest of the police are coded in shades of brown.
With the idea of creating a more intimate experience for the audience, the performance space was moved off the stage to the floor of Elliot Hall. ‘The different set up allows audience intimacy as well as the illusion of being a part of the set,’ said Mr Clyne, production assistant and Head of Classics and Latin. ‘Shifting the stage around makes it feel more like the actual board game,’ said Mabel Ye, a Year 12 lighting technician. Using three large screens, displaying back-projected black and white images in place of traditional painted sets, the narrative moves through many different scenes and locations from the police station to the Peacock Club, a grimy alley to a stately home.
Rounding out the production was the addition of the College Jazz combo with lead singer, Courtney Janssen and led by Mr Kristian Holmes. In keeping with the classic noir period of the 1940s, the jazz combo provided musical bridges between scenes and at the opening of the Peacock Club scenes. Offering some classic jazz standards and jazz interpretations of a modern song or two, the jazz combo added a richness to each performance.
The production was truly a student effort with the bulk of the backstage and production work handled by Year 13 Drama students for assessment purposes. Everything from production management, hair and make-up, lighting and sound to front of house was handled by the students.
The set, the costuming, the lighting and the parts played by those on stage and behind were finely tuned to a clever show that kept everyone guessing until the end.
There are many staff behind a production such as this, giving guidance, direction and support. Our thanks to Mrs Emma Bishop, Mr Ian Thomas and their team for undertaking these tasks to ensure a first rate production.
Sorry, I almost forgot. The butler did it…or in this case, Tyrian who was the missing millionaire’s steward who seemingly remained loyal to his employer’s wife Mrs Ruby Blackett, who turned out to be the second Mrs Blackett and didn’t know that Tyrian was the son of the first Mrs Blackett who turned out to be Blu from the nightclub who gave away her son and didn’t know that Tryian was in fact her son who was trying to claim his rightful inheritance…you should have been there!