Written by young Canadian writer Jordan Tannahill, Late Company is based on a Canadian teenager who committed suicide because he was bullied for being gay. With the central theme of teenage cyberbullying, the play cleverly navigates through related issues of how parenting, the societal environment, and polarising views on homosexuality could also impact the mental health of adolescences who are in the vulnerable phase of seeking their own identity.
The plot revolves around a family, comprised of parents Bill and Tamara (played by Adrian Pang and Karen Tan) and their son Curtis (Xander Pang). As calm as they try to be, Michael and Debora (played by Edward Choy and Janice Koh) had to revisit the death of their only son, Joel, and it was evident that the dinner was going to be nerve-racking. It was an awkward yet crucial evening as they seek closure and forgiveness for what happened a year ago.
The set design by Petrina Dawn Tan is a masterpiece, especially with its strong dimensional features to direct our focus towards the performance. The recognizably posh “house” is lavishly decorated with art pieces – most of which are Debora’s works – and even showcases a deck with a waterfall. As much as it explicitly showcases the wealthiness of Joel’s family, it also played a vital role in being the pretentious background of the domestic issues.
The backstage access also served as a clever segue for the scenes, leading the actors to the main door to the house and the kitchen, for example. As beautiful as it looks, the decorated house also feels devoid of a family’s warmth. Try looking for any family memorabilia on display and you will realise that there are not any: the fact that Michael only has one piece of item on display – a flag from LSE – seems to reinforce the notion that he is hardly at home, thereby spending very little time with his family. The house, while being a subject of envy for most, later felt more like a prison’s holding cell for the parents to grief over their late son.
The issues discussed in Late Company is something that can be transposed to Singapore’s context, where acceptance of homosexuality is challenged by deep-rooted traditional values, and parenting styles are often associated with strict and high expectations set upon the child. And amidst all the tension, finger-pointing, and the revelations of distressing secrets, the play managed to weave in comedic moments for the audience to wriggle our shoulders from all the intensity that has been built up.
The performance of the cast is beyond stellar, making Late Company the captivating play it is. Adrian Pang plays the fitting role of Bill, Curtis’ father, whose blunt yet curt words may at times hold true, and whose domineering personality completes the irritable figure he is to be in the play. He shines most when he stepped up to defend his son against the harsh verbal assaults thrown at him – a scene that remains strongly etched in my memory.
Of notable mention would be Janice Koh, who performed wonderfully for her role as the grieving mother, Debora. The grieving pain and the emotional outburst of a mother who lost her beloved child felt so surreal that one could almost forgive her for her resentful words to Curtis and his parents. Then, we have Curtis, played by Xander Pang, who disappears into a name as the adults weaponized their emotions through verbal and physical assaults. He managed to play out the emotional transition of being seemingly guilt-free to coming terms with the very consequence of his action. He showed how the character started to understand the severity of his actions and the need to be responsible as the altercation between the families played on.
Late Company holds so many elements and topics of discussion, thanks to Director Tracie Pang, who ensured that the scenes progressed in a way in which the audience can keep up with. The play is also well adapted to the local context, as it had some relatable scenes and mentions for the audience to draw parallels to their own experiences. For example, Michael’s occupation as an MP (Member of Parliament) and the high expectations that the parents speak of for their children in the play hit close to home. These scenes certainly bring back common memories of one’s teenage years – the dilemma of growing up to fit the image of what our parents want us to be, while struggling with the need to feel accepted by our peers.
If anything could be improved, I wished that Janice (Debora) would have pointed to Joel’s chair at the dining table during the scenes. It would have intensified and reinforced her grief at the climax of the argument, and yet, it seemed as if they were simply
With an amazing cast and production team, Late Company is a play that will stir your emotions and keep you at the edge of your seat in anger and sorrow as you’re forced to come face to face with the severity of cyberbullying.
Tickets start at S$30. To get seats before it is too late, visit https://www.sistic.com.sg/events/clate0219
Photos courtesy of Crispian Chan