You’re invited to a dinner party by Pangdemonium. It’s hosted by Mat and Jessica, an affluent middle-class couple, in their apartment on Muswell Hill. You’re welcome to BYOB – Bring Your Own Baggage – since everyone there will be mentally occupied with their personal first-world problems. What could possibly go wrong?
About Pangdemonium’s production of Muswell Hill
Muswell Hill is a dark comedy play by Torben Betts written in 2012. It follows the events that unfold at a dinner party on 13 January, 2010, a day after the Haiti earthquake. As the wine flows and the evening progresses, secrets and scandals unfold while the characters struggle with their emotional disconnect from each other and with the tragedy that just happened.
This run is directed by TIMOTHY KOH, in his directorial debut for Pangdemonium. The associate director of the company explains why he chose Muswell Hill. “It’s a piece that tackles many difficult questions and is bitingly funny to boot. This play demonstrates how we relate to tragedies that occur far away and how upper-middle class struggles – with our phones, artmaking and dinners – seem almost ridiculous in comparison. I’m keen on exploring these issues through my art.”
He’s also chosen to keep the setting, text and references of the theatre play for Singapore audiences: “I believe that our Singapore theatre audiences are empathatic and self-aware enough to understand, appreciate and relate to the characters, their struggles and of course, their ridiculous antics.”
Muswell Hill actors on first-world problems
How is Muswell Hill relevant to present times and for those living in Singapore? We speak to NIKKI MULLER and JASON GODFREY, who play Jessica and Mat in this Pangdemonium play in Singapore.
How relevant do you think Muswell Hill is to current times?
Nikki: This play isn’t meant to be sanctimonious or self-righteous but just honest. Through exaggeration and artistic license, Muswell Hill puts some of our actions under a microscope. It gives us the opportunity to understand our deep need for human connection in a time of global chaos. It forces us to take a rather uncomfortable but poignant look at ourselves, the world we’re a part of and the role we play in it.
Jason: There are always disasters happening around the world. With the entire geo-political situation in Europe, I’m having the same conversations at dinner that the characters in Muswell Hill have. The only difference is the current situation is having very tangible global effects, which means everyone has some skin in the game. With Muswell Hill, the lives of the characters are very disconnected; modern society says all the requisite things for a disaster halfway around the world but then goes back to eating their avocado and shrimp.
Any first-world problems you think you’re caught up in?
Nikki: I get upset about my Grab being eight minutes away when I know of people back in Manila who commute four hours daily for work. I think those who can go with the flow are ultimately happier or at least have less risk of a coronary. I need to be one of those people!
Jason: My entire life is first-world problems, but I like to think I have a tiny inkling of how lucky I am. The Ukraine-Russia conflict is a reminder that all our civility and rules are made up. If one person with enough power decides not to pay attention to the rules, the veneer of civilisation just drops away. In Singapore, we don’t realise the utopia we live in. Violent crime is low, everything works well. Singaporeans are well educated and civic-minded. The government is forward-thinking and tries to avoid problems before they happen. I’ve lived on every continent except for South America and it’s not hyperbole when I say Singapore is something special and unique.
Do you think that audiences can relate to the characters of this play?
Nikki: I think we’ve all attended some gathering where someone rubbed us the wrong way or was simply out of order. No character in this play is even remotely appropriate – I wouldn’t invite any of them to my house, ever! My character is seemingly the most grounded and “normal” in comparison to the others, but each character has their story and secrets, and everyone has a breaking point.
Jason: Hopefully, because we all are these characters to a certain degree. That said, Jess and Mat are typically caught up in their own lives and mostly just going through the motions of distress for humanity, so that makes them obliviously funny. They’re like people that “ooh” and “ahh” when they look at mountains because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Then they get on with their days unaffected by the majesty they’ve witnessed.
What do you hope audiences will take away from Muswell Hill?
Nikki: I hope people walk away with a bit more awareness of what’s going on in their own lives. If it can help lead you towards an authentic process that allows you to take stock of what’s going well and where you might need to ask for some help, then that’s fantastic!
Jason: First and foremost, that they’ll be entertained by this play in Singapore. Muswell Hill is very well written, raises a lot of issues and is genuinely funny. Or if you acknowledge that these characters reflect all of us, you can dig a little deeper and start thinking about your own place in the world.
Join the Muswell Hill dinner party play in Singapore
It happens at the Drama Centre Theatre from 24 June to 10 July, 2022. Showtimes are 8pm on Tuesdays to Fridays with additional 2.30pm shows on Saturdays and Sundays.
Tickets are available from Pangdemonium’s website. This production has a rating of Advisory (Some Mature Content).
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