>the second 42 theatre festival (week two) by action theatre

>reviewed by guest writer fiona chow

>date: 23 nov 2001
>time: 7:30pm
>venue: 42 waterloo street
>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.


God knows I'm generally not a critical person. But watching the second week of THE SECOND 42 THEATRE FESTIVAL at ACTION Theatre brought out the monster in me and the many not-so-friendly Fionas I never knew existed.

The scripts of the two main productions, 'Monsters' and 'I Am Roger', were weak and inconsequential. The motives and essences of the characters were one-dimensional and lacking in development. 'I Am Roger' was surely the lesser of the two evils with a stronger character development and better narrative. Ok, ok, being a
musical about a schizophrenic, there were four one-dimensions to the lead character but even then the
lines struggled for significance. Both the plots were so stereotypical, with no hint of originality or twist
that there wasn't much difference between reading the synopsis in the program sheet and watching the
productions themselves.

However what gave 'I Am Roger' a little lift was the astute direction by Jonathan Lim. His clever touches made the trite dialogue work much better with innovative physical symbolism and smooth transitions. The use of four moving screens not only presented effective exit and entrance points but also projected the motif of fragmentation wonderfully. Brandon Fernandez and Caleb Goh put the "music" in the "musical" with their beautiful, rich, full-bodied singing voices, masking the other less-than-credible voices of their co-actors (yes actors, not singers).

>>'Leong's spectacular performance was well worth the agonizing three hours.'

After the ordeal upstairs, I thought I would be treated to some light entertainment at the Backyard Stage. After all, the programe sheet promised a comedy of errors when cheeky mischievous fairies create disorder amongst the humans in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.

Yet the brawl on stage, which focused on the catfight by the two women, left me wondering if the audience was laughing for the right reasons. Without the necessary depth of theatre experience, many of the actors were unable to convey the fine nuances of comedy and their lines. And I do think Shakespeare intended it to be a comedy - not some theatrical version of 'Ah Girl' complete with ah lian mannerisms.

When I thought all hope was gone, the lifesaver came right at the end. Hossan Leong's spectacular performance in 'Who Wants to Be a Celebrity' was well worth the agonising three hours. His script was well written and tight, and his comic timing was simply amazing. There was never a flat moment as he managed to keep the energy running and the adrenaline high. With wicked jabs at celebrity wannabes and celebrities who are still wannabes after fame, he kept everyone laughing nonstop.

Songs and joke material were suitably localised while the songs were chosen to complement his jokes, with parts of the lyrics modified to bring across his point. Well-composed songs dedicated to local celebrities like Zoe Tay and Fann Wong, made sure that his audience lapped up every bit of his insider's gossip.

Without much effort, he brought out the full essence of what THE SECOND 42 THEATRE FESTIVAL is all about.