>1 bed 3 pillows by action theatre (double bill 1)
>reviewed by adele tan
31 may 2001
It was a night when two plays of different effects became strange bedfellows to each other. Uneven in strength, it was evident that the latter play was the more developed of the two. Although both plays dealt with the dynamics of personal relationships, PILLOW TALK missed a certain depth and subtlety that SPLIT SECOND had. Even more ironic was the point that each play found in the other what was deficient in themselves. Where PILLOW TALK was safely delivered to completion by veteran actresses Tan Kheng Hua and Lydia Look whose roles are nowhere a stretch for thespians of their calibre, Selena Tan's writing and direction lacked the finesse and range that was more apparent in Split Second. But where it all mattered, SPLIT SECOND did not have the actors with the necessary virtuosity to bring the script alive.
of PILLOW TALK is simple enough as Selena Tan plies the well-trodden
rivalry and discomfiture between siblings, their jealousies and selfishness
amidst intimacy, love and care. Two sisters, Susan and Sandra are reunited
after a long separation because the elder sister is almost dying and
bed-ridden. Whilst sorting out the memorabilia in the drawers, the two
move between past and present, revealing all their hopes, fears and
erstwhile kinks in their history, culminating in the eventual death
of the sister on the bed.
>>'Even more ironic was the point that each play found in the other what was deficient in themselves.'
However, Selena Tan's script remained flat on the surface, and did not proceed to plumb more deeply but stayed as assorted paraphernalia. The play threatened to be overwhelmed by familiar television scenes and gags with its requisite humour in the whisperings of girly secrets and shenanigans, giving the feeling that it was merely rehashed and given some plot twists. But the play did have some sparky and suggestive moments. There were touches that bordered on the risqué like when the Susan experimented with condoms on Sandra, and insinuations of guilt and blame that surrounded the illness and death of the mother. We are also left to speculate whether Susan's death was natural or deliberately caused. Yet it was irksome that they became mere passing shots that were not better worked into the play. As a director, Tan has yet to mature and explore beyond the dimensions of a straight, realist dramatization of the school play genre.
But SPLIT SECOND is not an easy play to ingest as one suspects that Wang may have been a tad too indulgent with her words and her craft, at times more intent at displaying her clever turns. Her insertion of an ultra-naturalistic scene of the return of the old flame, Abby, to upset the marital equilibrium seemed like a flawed attempt to vary the tempo. The scene dipped into banal dialogues and predictable quibbles/ commentaries on Singapore, losing its idiosyncratic quirkiness. The play too could have benefited more from a sharper and more innovative and dynamic direction from Jonathan Lim, who might have better compensated for the stillness of the play. But the gravest injustice done to the play is borne squarely on the shoulders of the actors. Whilst Melissa Kwek held her role as the wife with equanimity and quiet intelligence, Ng Tzer Huei is not at all convincing as a Sartre-obsessed husband who wishes to be on the tip of Tibet. For a wordy play like SPLIT SECOND, it cannot afford an actor who continually flubs his lines, constructs malapropisms and mangles his diction. Tan Shin Yi, as Abby appears to be still rather self-conscious and uncomfortable on stage, giving a stilted and contrived delivery of a supposed sexy and strong-headed libertarian.
couples go, PILLOW TALK and SPLIT SECOND provided nice counterpoints
to each other for a thematic evening of a double bill with one bed and
three pillows. As individual plays on their own, without that thematic
jaunt, they still could and would want to do more with their dramatic
material and theatrical space.