>A FLIGHT DELAYED by Dramalab

>reviewed by fiona chow

>date: 13 jun 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: the jubilee hall, raffles hotel
>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.
 

>>>>>A RUNAWAY PLANE GROUNDED BY REALITY

I was secretly flattered that the Singapore Changi Airport actually had a part to play in this play. It is after all the place where visitors' first impressions of Singapore are set and formed. And I felt even more so of the status and image of our airport when, in one scene, Puan Fatimah bribed her son Rahim not to cry with ice cream "because we in international airport".

The airport is most apt to portray the kaleidoscope of the colourful elements of life. It is the place that signifies the hope and dreams of another place in another time. It is the place where all our emotions of anticipation, expectations, excitement and fear get entangled and wrapped up with one another so indivisibly that we are ready to burst from it all.

From the start, realism was the key word here. Dramalab managed to create the right mood with passersby whizzing haphazardly around the stage to the jazzed-up fast-paced music. Simple screens and chairs on wheels were manipulated to different angles to create different scenes and rooms. There was the right amount of colloquialism to give it that local flavour, and to set the audience laughing. Using a myriad of characters ranging from the Caribbean aspiring youth to the Indian bride on her way to an arranged marriage, the tapestry woven was rich but realistic.

The passersby created the light-hearted humour necessary to balance the tension between the two leading actors. Puan Fatimah and the Janitor sent the audience into fits of laughter throughout the play with her hilarious grandmother antics and the janitor's Ah Lian disdain of the travelers on the way out of their working hellhole.

>>'There are no easy answers and the director knows not to lie to the audience with a simplistic cop-out of an ending'

Right in the beginning we see the stark contrast of the flurry of people catching their planes with Rin being irritated about having to stand still and wait infinitely for Jeff to get back from the toilet. We are immediately told that this trip would be more than just visiting sheep in New Zealand. It would be a road to self-discovery and how they would fit into each other's lives.

Both of these characters were realistically portrayed. Rin hates waiting, for fear that things might slip past and she believes that doing nothing does things to your brain. She knows what she wants and is not afraid to get what she wants. At the same time she is shown to be as fallible as Jeff, as vulnerable as the next person. She is no superwoman, but is afraid to hope and is afraid to be an optimist as such expectations may fail her eventually. She is insecure inside despite the overwhelming confidence and self-esteem that she portrays.

Jeff too is an occupational hazard victim who spends the majority of his life in his office, even on Sundays. He is afraid that without work to distract him, he will be consumed by nothingness. He is the typical man on the street, who loves football, ogles at girls with bimbo bubbliness, and is afraid of commitment.

Both characters show characteristics of people we all know and the portrayals are all the more realistic because these characteristics are shown in a matter-of-fact way. There are no apologies for Jeff's sometimes boorish behaviour or for Rin's obsessive worrying. Like real people, they just are, and this draws the audience closer to them.

Their flight delay finally allows them to stop and think about what they want out of their lives, and to sort out the emotions that they are going through but hiding. With the divine help of a series of events, the couple re-evaluate their relationship.

Things start to get even more dismal with the appearance of Deena with her triple Ds: Demure, Docile and Dumb. Deena's own abysmal relationship is fleshed out and juxtaposed with Jeff and Rin's struggling relationship to give better balance. By putting these two troubled relationships side by side, the playwright shows that just like life, most things are imperfect - it is really what we do with this imperfection that matters.

Fortunately the play did not have a fairy tale ending where they all lived happily every after. There are just some questions that cannot be answered, expectations that cannot be guaranteed, and futures that no one knows of. There are no easy answers and the director knows not to lie to the audience with a simplistic cop-out of an ending.

But then again love is hope, and like Jeff said: "We can get far with what we have." Realistic but not bleak; even in reality, hope is certainly something we can celebrate.