>MOONSHINE by schism/ism

>reviewed by adele tan

>date: 16 dec 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: velvet underground, zouk
>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.


Saturday night at Zouk, Velvet Underground. The place pulsates with a life of its own and is a place of expectations and imagination. With a space as promising and engaging as this, the stakes are high to deliver a multi-faceted product. I wonder what energies might lie behind the chandeliers, plush velvet and TV sets/consoles. But whatever latent powers MOONSHINE might have had, it did not shine too brightly that night.

The premise of MOONSHINE is simple enough. There are four strangers of the city with their separate lives connected in some interplanetary kind of way in the play, all in search of the La Luna Bar and the elusive and illusive "moonshine" - the magical holy grail which turns out to be some cocktail hoax. The strangers are replete with their own brand of idiosyncratic obsessions. There is a man with a fetish for female body parts, a female pariah of society who is constantly looking in from without, a man with superhero ambitions looking for his perfect mate and a woman PI detective wannabe. The individuals are revealed through the monologues they give about themselves but are distanced amongst themselves, as they never really come close to any point of interaction. They are the epitome of urban denizens who are on a search for something meaningful to fill the voids in their lives but infinitely uncertain about what they actually desire and what they will end up with. The oppressiveness of their isolation never lets up and a warped violent tenor runs through the play. At times, the play tries to push this to the boundaries of comic absurdity.

>>'MOONSHINE lacks a certain consistency and original impulse to lift the play up to greater heights'

MOONSHINE presents itself in a visually and stylistically striking manner. The mixed tempo of the music and frenzied movement choreography created a pseudo-schizophrenic, surrealistic atmosphere. Parts of the play are deftly playful like the devising of a mock illusionist act/trick performance that only adds to the disembodied and ephemeral feel of the play. Diverse ranges of motifs also scatter themselves within the show from prosthetic limbs to guns to geometrical and algebraic equations. Perhaps the most eye-catching and stimulating is the play's juxtaposition of the celluloid with the theatrical. The images of body parts shot onto the TV screen and superimposed as a line map for the search and the journey is a most intriguing idea. The parallel linkages of the amateur movie 'The Golden Merlion' - a localised spoof of 'The Maltese Falcon' give added dimensions to the four strangers, who also did the voice-overs for the characters in the movie. This is also where the audience gets a more palpable sense of who and what the strangers are and the movie too breaks the somewhat tedious rhythm of the theatrical setting with its comic send-ups. It is as if the strangers only begin to live when they are within a different medium, a para-reality, which becomes a better extension of their personalities.

But MOONSHINE lacks a certain consistency and original impulse to lift the play up to greater heights. The subject matter is already an overdone and jaded one. It is firstly let down by terribly uneven acting and Terence Fung as the fetishistic man delivers an almost stolid and non-nuanced performance of histrionics which tends to distort and drown the play. The ensemble seemed unable to play off each other's energies. Too many ideas float around without an extended treatment, leading sometimes into indecipherable meanderings. Few ideas were sustained enough to register a mental impact and instead slid off you without your noticing. The arbitrary symbols that pepper the play disconnect the audience, pushing the play to the point of becoming unintelligible and opaque at times. Perhaps a grave deficiency lay in its writing, which gave preference to a quasi-poetic voice that became increasingly self-indulgent. The play just could not bear the weight of its cryptic lines and a more delicate crafting would have made more manifest the play's artistic intentions. The reliance on audiences to make sense of whatever is presented to them and draw their own conclusions is a much used and abused notion. This time I am stonewalled by the release of one too many imperceptible signs that are too intensely personal.