Last Monday marked the premiere of Siddharth Singh’s Blasphemy, UTM’s annual murder mystery play produced by the EDSS in conjunction with the Forensics Society.
Once the lights dimmed, all that seemed to exist were the devoted actors engaged with each other on set. The production was not only dark and gritty, but also extremely captivating. The show implemented elements of CSI, Silence of the Lambs, and Psycho in its characters.
Each character had its own unique traits. Lindsay Wu’s Clarice Fox was portrayed as a powerful, strong detective who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. Quite often, she clashed in a humorous and dramatic manner with other characters. While this type of character has been seen in the past, this may be the first time an audience has been introduced to one that also identifies as a lesbian, and does so with confidence.
Christian Choi and Tobi Ogude embodied the masculinity that is part of the media’s portrayal of police officers. The detective and sergeant depict a “boy’s club” ideal of policing, which is impinged upon by Fox’s headstrong style.
Marissa Orjalo and Hannah Gilbert, two call girls, also bring the stage to life, each interacting in different ways. Orjalo plays the seductive Sasha, while Gilbert’s performance emits a heartwarming innocence. These characters both complement Lucas Blakely’s Roy Franklin. Franklin is the psychopath of the play, and though each call girl initially interacts with him comfortably, his calm demeanor changes as he deteriorates into an unstable killer. They both react and convey the sense of urgency that one would have in a potentially life-threatening situation. In fact, Orjalo’s scream is likely the most bloodcurdling thing to happen during the show.
This review would simply not be complete without mentioning Blakely’s work. He depicts a character with emotional instability, but amongst the detectives he maintains an extreme calmness and poise. During his flashbacks, he devolves from a distant, quiet individual to something much worse. With the haunting chants from his deceased mother, Franklin slowly loses control of his temper and snaps on every individual in his presence. One of the highlights of his performance happens when he takes his loss of control and directs it through monologue. He addresses the audience, engaging members with eerie stares and an uncomfortable closeness.
This is a project that Singh takes pride in. This story, one year in the making, had initially been adapted for film; logistics made this unlikely and this resulted in a reworked adaptation for live theatre. Singh states that this stage adaptation created the opportunity for the story to be told in a “more intimate fashion”. A psychological murder story had been something he aspired to do for quite some time, and he took the opportunity to pay homage to some of his favourites. Singh points out that some of his characters carry the names of past killers such as Norman Bates, whose name is reflected in the character of Sergeant Jack Bates. Singh manages to create a vulnerable character with Franklin. Instead of a character with strength in his insanity, he portrays one where the audience can see his degradation. It is clear that the killer truly has little to no self-control.
Blasphemy possesses depth. Due to the fusion of so many different elements of horror and crime, as well as the diversity of each character, there are no limits to how this play could have concluded, which makes the actual ending even more of a surprise.