>the second 42 theatre festival (week four) by action theatre
>reviewed by daniel teo
7 dec 2001
My drama teacher used to make us reluctant students play this particular warm-up exercise: using the first person's facial expression as a platform, we would improvise on his facial expressions to weave an evolving storyline person by person, bit by bit. By the time the exercise reached the end of the human chain, a coherent and hopefully interesting plot would have been created with corresponding facial expressions.
Watching the various productions during the fourth week of the theatre festival, I felt as if I was back in the drama room looking at students making up stories as they go along, desperately trying to be witty, thought-provoking or most of the time both. The same feeling of randomness was there as many of the ideas seemed half-baked and conceived in a hurry without much thought going into it. It all seemed terribly informal and underworked, as if the productions were drafted during slumber parties ('Venus vs. Mars') or during a rambling artist's convention ('This Is Not an Apple').
Mars' was terribly underdeveloped in many aspects of production. Filled
with superficial (and not terribly funny) clichés of men ignoring
their girlfriends to watch soccer and women resorting to lingerie to get
their men excited, the situations and lines were vapid and much too predictable
to generate any real insights in gender relationships. Not surprisingly
the four actors didn't have much to work with when their characters were
so one-dimensional without charm nor sophistication. Only James Seow tried
to inject a little more complexity in his lad role while his co-actors
merely raised their voices on cue at the punch lines to make them sound
>>'The road to hell is paved with good intentions.'
'This Is Not an Apple' started off well enough with sufficient smart one-liners to get the audience laughing - for the first five minutes. After that I started feeling like I was watching an unending rerun of indistinguishable characters in stock situational comedies. Just like 'Venus vs. Mars', originality was sorely lacking as platitudes were passed off as wisdom while vacuous characters milled around without any sense of direction. Genuine moments such as the feuding old couple arguing about their marriage were far and few. Furthermore, with some episodes almost devoid of dialogue, the laughs were largely dependent on a strong sense of physical comedy which was not the cast members' strong suit.
Ong made the night less dismal with her captivating portrayal of a schizophrenic
woman suspected of murdering her husband. If you thought Jonathan Lim
made good his two roles in the first week, watch out for Adelina's skillful
manipulation of her many troubled personalities. Working very hard to
make sure she got their individual emotional texture right, her versatility
was only hampered by the limiting stage and lack of co-actors to engage
with. Certainly the tepid script, without any surprises in character and
plot development, didn't help.
to hell is paved with good intentions - it's a pity the audience had to
sit on the hot seat so many times through the festival.