>REPORT CUTS by The Dream Academy

>reviewed by kenneth kwok

>date: 6 mar 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: victoria theatre
>rating: ***1/2

>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.
 

>>>>>TO MA'AM WITH LOVE

With a briefcase packed with essay scripts to mark on the MRT ride home and with my trusty red pen in my shirt pocket, I made my way down to Victoria Theatre last night, asking myself along the way, Hey, sure I deserved a break after standing around and teaching for hours all morning (a bit of an exaggeration since I'm only a trainee teacher) but should I really be having this break at all? - there were lesson plans to correct, quizzes to set. But I had no intention of missing Selena Tan's one-woman show celebrating the teacher profession (or "Teacher-assic park" as she affectionately calls it). The only thing more entertaining than laughing at someone else is to be laughing at yourself. Or so I'm told.

And indeed, I had a great time there. And by all accounts so did everyone else in the auditorium. Selena received many rounds of raucous applause during her set and she would probably have gotten a standing ovation if teachers - and there were many teachers in the audience, some schools organizing big staff outings so that their teachers could come and watch the show together - weren't so programmed against the idea of standing up any old how ("Ah Kow, sit down!"). That's how much the crowd loved her.

>>' I had a great time there. And by all accounts so did everyone else in the auditorium.'

Frankly, I did have my reservations and my enjoyment of the show was less than complete; sure, I wasn't expecting the sort of political satire laced into say, Hossan Leong's 'Singapore Boy' or the raunch of Kumar's Boom Boom Room shows but there were many points during Selena's performance at which I felt that her material played it just a little too safe as well. At one point, someone in the audience made a joke about diaphragms and Selena's response was, "This is a show for teachers, I'm not going there", which made me wonder how innocent she thought teachers were! *smile* In fact most of the humour came from the sort of punch-lines you get in say, The Big Book of Jokes And Riddles eg. "My teacher was so ugly that if he was a scarecrow, not only would he scare the crows away but they would bring back the corn they had stolen two months ago." Funny, yes, but I would liked to have seen her push the envelope a little more and not rely too much on formulaic material.

Especially since writer Low Guat Tin - a lecturer at the National Institute of Education and therefore able to tap into familiar "insider" material - obviously had no problems being funny in her own right. The opening sequence performed by Low herself tickled the funny bone mercilessly and there was much of Selena's material that was truly enjoyable; my personal favourite: when asked why the class was making so much noise, a student had answered, "Because we are disgusting", as a mispronunciation of "discussing". It left me wondering why there was not more of such material, material drawn from situations that really could happened - that have happened! - to local teachers, genuinely funny situations.

But that is just nit-picking because at the end of the day, REPORT CUTS is about entertainment, is simply about making you laugh. That is what it set out to do, and that is what it did at so many many points throughout the show. Even these corny jokes that I am complaining about, I suppose they appear much more contrived only in retrospect now that I've put on my arty-farty theatre reviewer spectacles; at the show itself, I was laughing my head off along with everyone else.

Of course, much credit must go to the all-singing, all-performing Selena Tan who had her Energizer batteries plugged in and the audience eating out of her hand. I remember a lady behind me laughing hysterically - and then turning round to ask her friend what Selena had said because she actually hadn't heard but was just laughing because of the way Selena had said it! A versatile and energetic performer with a natural flair for ad libbing, Selena knew her strengths and played to them beautifully, being the charming Girl-Next-Door one minute and sympathetic Hey-I-Was-A-Relief-Teacher-Once-Too the next.

And let's not forget Golden Oldies chanteuse and fierce Anita Sarawak impersonator as well!