>DOUBLE HAPPINESS by Spell#7 and Bodies In Flight

>reviewed by adele tan

>date: 6 oct 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: the fort canning black box
>rating: ***

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


Living in cyber-reality is a messy matter. Frenetic, random and unrespecting of the great divides of time and space. Transport [(tr_ns pôr_), v.t., to convey, remove: to send overseas, as a convict: to translate: to carry off (as by the fairies, Shakespeare): to throw into an ecstasy - see www.doublehappines2.com] is DOUBLE HAPPINESS' game and gambit, acting as the very conduit or portal through which we might enter and come into contact with other foreign but loving bodies. Like the schizoid frequencies of tele-technology, the play starts at a wordless non-pace that builds up to an explosive exhortation. It seemingly asks: "What is the state of romance and sex in the 21st century's virtual world?" but the play is not interested in giving you an answer, only quite intent on showing you that the whole process, is fast, snappy and a helluva load of fun.

Aptly contained in The black box, DOUBLE HAPPINESS is made up of the technologies and conventions we are familiar with. It is a polyglot pastiche of web sites, chatroom's, and video web cams, alphanumeric shorthands like 6wasabe9 and shygirl7, and computer laptops. Love blossoms between 2 couples of two different cultures and time zones, conducted through technological paraphernalia. In typical spell#7 style and mode, what ensues is a visual and sonic feast, made up of bodily dance movements, of digitalised images and email/ IRC messages all seemingly floating about in an original hypnotic electronica score, set forth in a minimalist set. There is no doubt that one will be swept away in awe of its technical ingenuity and production values, and be drawn to its clever constructions of metaphorical turns. Like when the actors roll about on the projection screen as if to parody the body's dissolution into cyberspace or when the actors perform the introjection of the web cams into and around their bodies or when the set transforms itself into an airplane cabin taking flight. The lovers are reduced to childish fits and giggles at the novelty of seeing their partners' videographic representations.

>>'We are placed at the knife's edge of conflicting emotions - anxiety, frustration, desire, a yearning for the real and the exhilaration of endless virtual possibilities'

It seems that technology has given us a new medium to play in, but has not altered drastically the powerful social-convention performance of the love ritual. Watching a spell#7 performance is often an imaginative and nuanced do but DOUBLE HAPPINESS is as brash and loud an event as its wedding dinner yam sengs. Undeniably, it is still an intelligent and thoughtful conception that takes aim at the central crossroads of technology and social relationships that brings itself to bear on the ruptures in traditional communication. We are placed at the knife's edge of conflicting emotions - anxiety, frustration, desire, a yearning for the real and the exhilaration of endless virtual possibilities - that crescendo into an orgiastic climax of the seduction of the flesh.

Underlying all that is the promise and hope that love and passion will move beyond all global differences and boundaries as it makes it known that the WAP-affair is always "less the difference between his brown hair and her brown eyes". The play coos, teases and tantalises the audience with Wildean epigrams like: "I advise you burn. Don't cool; never again cool. Cool takes too long for life, that only gets shorter the longer you cool but longer the hotter you burn." Still the play might be in danger of getting a little too clever for itself, losing sight of what it does best - sublime with a twist of fun, especially with this unwieldy subject called love. The script is a veritable discursive smorgasbord that runs from poetic verse to explanations of abstract terms but one cannot help but feel the hollowness beneath the contrivance.

Their brief paeans to transgressive love, flesh and sex risk becoming superficial flotsam and jetsam of cyber detritus when given out by the actors with little sense of their sincerity or the possibility of taking itself more seriously. We are thrown a barrage of quirky, contemporary literary-philosophic insights but few are sustained, extended or deepened enough to deliver us from the usual platitudes of what we have already known and suspected about cyber relations. I would have loved to see the darker side to the lovers' virtual universe but the short play stopped at the point where they might actually have done an about face.

Love and lovers are always brilliant subject matter for fiction and theatre because it is often a ready point of access for the everyman. In the dexterous hands of spell#7, it has the potential to shade its mocking, whimsy, and ironic absurdities with delicate strokes of pathos and beauty. Perhaps DOUBLE HAPPINESS is too caught up in its fast and furious celebrations and cheeky taunts but the sinful amalgamation of computers and flesh is one heck of a fun and raunchy affair too "cool" to be missed. One can always later theorise away the inadequacies of the show with some post-modern interpretive free-play.