>>>>>AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE REACTION
for this festival screams, "It's fresh! It's invigorating!"
Rather like a new formula of washing powder, then, or perhaps an isotonic
drink. For those of you who've missed the hype, the idea is that new works
talents are showcased each week "amidst the resort setting of 42
Waterloo Street" (ACTION Theatre really needs to hire a new copywriter).
I usually have a problem with a little artistic roughness in the pursuit
of a fresh and invigorating experience - but I do expect "new talents"
to at least possess some talent. The evening got off to a bad start
with Alvin Fong, novice stand-up comedian, who failed to elicit even a
titter from a more-than-willing audience and seemed worryingly uncomfortable
with his material, considering he'd written it himself.
Next up were
Grace Ng, whose thin voice wasn't quite up to coping with her selection
from 'Ragtime', and James Seow, with Desmond Sim's 'Teochew Porridge'.
Seow was actually quite promising, but let down by his
over-emphatic speech rhythms, which made him sound like someone delivering
a monologue in a secondary school play. The paucity of his material didn't
help, Sim not being the world's greatest playwright
("How can I get into pre-university with these grades? I'm going
to be the menial worker all my teachers said I would be if I didn't study
talent was represented by Candice de Rozario, with 'I Didn't Know You
Could Cook', a witty script by Rich Orloff about a disabled gay man. Sadly
de Rozario was burdened with David Leong, an actor who could cope with
neither the humour nor the rhythms of the lines, and for that matter had
trouble pronouncing words such as 'finesse' or 'Episcopalian'. Her direction
was basically competent, but failed to convince - in the climatic conflict,
she had her actors politely reciting their lines one after another, instead
of overlapping and interrupting as people do in real arguments.
>>'I do have a problem with theatre companies charging $38 for a
show when many of its constituent items are not up to performance standard.'
The saving grace of the evening was 'Plunge', a new play by 'Life!' Theatre
Award nominee Jean Tay. A sophisticated script was set off by Krishen
Jit's direction, and an ensemble cast including Mark Richmond and Beatrice
Chia. 'Plunge' featured Emma Yong in the twin roles of Isabel, a newscaster
coolly reciting facts and figures relating to the 1997 Asian
Economic Crisis, and Ina, an Indonesian student directly affected by these
is muscular, interleaving a brutal reminder of how politics
can cause havoc in ordinary lives with remarkable imagery of the terrors
hidden in the urban landscape. More than that, she lifts her text beyond
the merely topical, taking as her theme the cruelty and bravery human
beings are capable of when pushed to extremes.
rough edges - Yong's Indonesian accent kept slipping, and the script never
does make clear the relationship between Ina and Isabel. For a first draft,
though, 'Plunge' is a remarkable achievement and deserves to be given
a full production very soon.
in Action!' consisted of a dramatised selection of local poems. Some of
this was quite moving, including video footage of displaced Filipino maids
as a backdrop to Leong Liew Geok's 'Farewell to Sumana' and the eerily
effective 'What They Talk About in the Bedroom When The Children Are Fast
Asleep' by Alfian Bin Sa'at. Jonathan Lim's direction was effective, and
it was an intelligent decision to have Lim Yi Sheng's 'A Loud Poem To
Be Read Aloud To A Very Obliging Audience' running through the entire
performance, giving it coherence. The cast, however, were merely adequate
(with the exception of the sparkling Haslynda Dahlan) and often failed
tailed off with 'Cocktail Cabaret' featuring Robin Goh, "a heart-wrenching
journey through a collection of theatrically beautiful numbers" (that
copywriter again). Goh has a nice enough voice, but slowed
down the tempo of each song unbearably - the effect was like wading through
treacle. And someone tell the man that you bring out the emotions in songs
through the words, not by gurning at the funny lines and grimacing at
the sad bits.
Three of THE SECOND 42 THEATRE FESTIVAL was quite a mixed bag, admittedly
as advertised. I applaud the intention of Action Theatre in grooming new
talent, but I do have a problem with theatre companies charging $38 for
a show when many of its constituent items are not up to performance standard
(Alvin Fong, Grace Ng) or simply painful (Robin Goh). Apart from 'Plunge',
which alone was worth the price of admission, and 'Poetry in Action',
this evening was disappointing. Roll on week four...