>my last night in sin by spell#7

>reviewed by eugene tan

>date: 21 jun 2001
>time: 10.30pm
>venue: sculpture square
>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.


spell #7 shows often present me with a problem. In attempting to recount them, I often have to ask myself, "Umm where do I start?"

This one is no different, but I suppose I can try.

Two women are in the midst of a gambling face-off as the audience enters the space of the play. As we settle down, one, Boss Tan, asks to borrow 10-cent coins to throw on the floor in a game that is completely unclear, but that we buy anyway, much like the way we sit engrossed by one of the Chow Yun Fatt gambling movies which this play is based on.

And so the show starts, with references to the said genre all over the place. Two cheesy women, Boss Tan and the Queen of Clubs, cards that fall from the ceiling, a trishaw, and wildly bizarre tales of wins, losses and introductions to gambling.

>>'So it was wonderful then? The idea was, but alas, the execution presented certain problems'

These ingredients are stirred together in a sort of musical, whose story progresses in stops and starts depending on how much the actors feel the need to dance.

The music, though, deserves mention. It sounded a little bit like it was slapped together at the last minute, but it worked in the way the rest of the show felt a little bit slapped together too: the groove is right, so everything falls into place.

So we now know that these are both serious big-time gamblers or at least they wish they were, and so the stakes rise and rise until they bet all, for their ultimate prize, virtue. And it is here that the whole thing starts to make sense.

Two women gambling in a converted church, giving everything for virtue. At once raising very interesting questions about religion in general while entertaining with visuals that are just too cool.

So it was wonderful then?

The idea was, but alas, the execution presented certain problems.

The acting in general was effective when characters whispered to the audience to ask for a pen, or a coin or a mobile phone, and when they were going full-throttle at cabaret-style camp but it was in the moments when the actors were doing neither of these, just playing their characters that they faltered. It almost seemed as if they had problems switching between the modes, so that when they played it "realistic", it was almost as if they had lost steam. It felt at times as if their performances gained strength only from the playfulness of interacting with the audience or the camp of singing and strutting like beauty queens.

Also, while the music was wonderful for the most part, we heard more of it then we did the actors, so their songs about how they were born into gambling, fantastical stories worthy of its own plays, were completely drowned out. Thank goodness for programme notes.

To be fair when the actors could be heard, and when they were not playing in a realist mode, the performance did achieve magic, and that happened at many points in the show. Unfortunately, though, these moments were short-lived.