Review: ‘The Bride Always Knocks Twice — Killer Secrets’ Brings the Theatre Stage to Our Homes in Unique Interactive Experience8 min readReading Time: 6 minutes
The Bride Always Knocks Twice — Killer Secrets is a unique multimedia experience presented by The Theatre Practice revolving around seven women caught in a murder mystery. It is split into four segments, or chapters, where participants are taken through the set-up of the murder, the interrogation, an investigation of the crime scene, and the final reveal. We put down our writing pens and took up a detective’s magnifying glass to try our hand at cracking this mystery.
The first chapter begins by setting the stage for us in the form of a digital theatre. Our story takes place in a house outside of time and space where we meet seven women from different eras in time — a student revolutionary, a forgotten Samsui woman, the concubine of Sultan Iskandar Shah, a soldier of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, a faded movie star, a bride on the run, and a policewoman who is returning to the house from the year 2021.
For some of these women, they are trapped in the house. However, for others, they are free to come and go. But there is one thing that unites all these women — they are living in this house because they see nothing outside waiting for them. They are simply living in limbo and waiting out the rest of their days, like a dead woman walking.
Things kick off when POLICE, who once left the house, decides to return. It appears there is a rule that there cannot be more than six women in the house at a time, thus the women begin hinting at who should leave. STUDENT becomes agitated, feeling as though the others are unwelcoming of her and thus she threatens to disrupt the peace of the house. She claims to know each of their dirtiest secrets and will expose them to show that everyone is hiding their true selves from the rest.
POLICE who has just returned to the house in hopes of an escape from the real world decides to speak to the women and find out what these dirty secrets are. We learn more about each character’s backstory and there is even an interesting discussion point on colonialism and feminism. But her efforts are all for nought. STUDENT is found dead, murdered in cold blood, and a murderer now stands among the six remaining women. From this point on, we take on POLICE’s perspective and slowly begin uncovering who the killer is.
After we understand the premise and our characters, we move into the second chapter where we interrogate the individual characters. Prior to Chapter 1, participants can choose any two characters to place their suspects on. In Chapter 2, we get to sit down with the characters chosen and grill them on what we witnessed in the digital theatre segment. Based on the character’s actions and what we learn about their stories, participants can type their interrogation questions into a chat box and the characters will answer the top-voted questions in real time.
Together with the context of the murder and the answers from our suspects, we are then allowed to investigate the crime scene itself in the third chapter. Together with notes and case files, we are given a map of the house and we can explore them in greater detail for any potential clues with the help of 360 cameras that capture the interior of each room. Assisting POLICE, we now slowly put the puzzle pieces together and uncover the true killer.
The saga concludes in the fourth chapter, where the killer’s real identity is finally revealed. The reveal is done in a similar style to the first chapter where players watch through the digital theatre livestream how the investigations slowly evolve. As it turns out, the killer is more cunning and devious than meets the eye. This reveal allowed those who submitted their guesses to find out whether they were right or wrong, and also gave those who were unable to crack the case a satisfying ending.
Online events like online concerts or shows can often feel like a replacement for real-life events that cannot be hosted at the moment and often they lose the sense of immersion and connection the audience craves. However, The Bride Always Knocks Twice — Killer Secrets made use of the online format to divide its audience into smaller groups and create one-on-one interactions with the cast that you would never experience in a conventional stage play.
The cast is also to be commended. They embodied their roles both in the recorded segment in the first chapter, as well as in the live interrogation of the second chapter. During the interrogation, the questions related to the investigation were predictable enough to answer. However, when unrelated questions appeared, the actors were able to quip back while also putting forward their personality. During the interrogation of SOLDIER, there was a random question about their footwear and SOLDIER was able to answer in a way that fit her personality while also tying into her backstory.
The interactivity is a double-edged sword, being the most stand-out part of the experience while also being the only issue I had with it. During the interrogation segments, participants who have all chosen the same character to interrogate are put in the same chat room, thus everyone can see each other’s response. It is not clear how the questions are filtered from the main chatroom into the list that the actress sees, however at times the choice of questions were bizarre and almost seemed irrelevant.
There were many layers to uncover in order to unmask the true killer and the answer was not as straightforward as we had initially thought — full of clever twists playing with the historical context each woman emerged from. It seems fitting that the story opens and closes in the same style and format. These digital theatre livestreams felt much like a film and there was certainly an emphasis on making them more than just recordings of a stage play.
The cinematography gave the set depth and the colours were able to achieve the ethereal atmosphere of the house. In moments when not all the characters are present, the camera allows us to get up close and personal with the individual women. We can observe their facial expressions and mannerisms in greater detail than a traditional stage play would allow for.
Chapter 3 transformed the crime scene into an interactive virtual experience
The soundtrack, which features the main theme song “Sister, The Moon” was performed by local actress and singer Joanna Dong. The song has a dreamy and airy feeling to it, together with Dong’s wispy voice it ties back in together with the setting of the story and evoking a sense of mystery within the audience.
The costumes are wonderful, from the accurate recreations of STUDENT’s uniform to the intricacies and grandeur exuded from CONCUBINE’s ornate headdress and jewelry. Aside from serving as easy ways to visually distinguish the characters from each other, they also show us the foundations upon which the women build their personalities. The costumes are well-designed and go well with the casting choices of the seven women. There is even attention to detail in the hair and makeup.
With each location we were brought to, we entered a new chapter. We first began in the living room in Chapter 1, and then we proceeded to the bedrooms in Chapters 2 and 3. The locations served as checkpoints in the story and it is almost symbolic of how as we moved from the common area to the more private areas, we were uncovering more intimate details and growing closer to them as the story progressed. In these personal settings, we would find out who the women truly were when the curtains are drawn and the facade they put up in front of the others is gone.
The Bride Always Knocks Twice — Killer Secrets is fascinating and truly one-of-a-kind. It is a genius adaptation of the medium of theatre which we have not been able to appreciate during this pandemic. It also makes full use of the online format in engaging its audience and bringing the characters closer to them. Although there have been many new online events that have emerged in the midst of the pandemic, this experience was particularly unique and impressed with its intricately detailed production and sheer creativity.
Banner image credit: Courtesy of The Theatre Practice