by the necessary stage
SPOILT tells the story of Tracy, a successful 33-year old who decides she can no longer bear her "sweet, but predictable" life and prepares to admit herself into a mental hospital. Tracy's decision, though, has repercussions. One of the people she affects through her decision is her ex-boyfriend from JC who went mad while in NS. Her decision also affects her parents, living on an estate for the aged (patronisingly called Spring Vale) and forced to cope in different ways with the loneliness of losing her. There is a twist in this story at the very end, apt given Tracy's aversion to all things predictable and her declaration at the beginning of the play that there is nothing quite like that God-like feeling of being able to write our own endings.
The staging for this performance is simple. White floor in a black box, white screen walls for the video projections, and a fairly minimal use of props and costume changes to create shifts in scene and character. Its focus as a result is on the actor - the actor's ability to create the character he is playing without the magic of theatrical devices.
No two actors could have been better equipped to do this than Karen Tan and Loong Seng Onn who delivered all night an assortment of delightful characters. In particular, I found Karen Tan's portrayal of Tracy's ageing mother Dorothy superbly executed. The twitch, the sudden and jerky body movements, and the inability to speak nothing but clichés strung end to end in a robotic fashion all helped to quickly create in our minds the impression of a character completely ossified by the experiences of her life. Watch out too for Karen's entertaining portrayal of Madam Whitesnake, a squeaky voiced ghost outlandishly dressed in a blue evening dress and a diamond tiara.
>>'The focus of the play is on the actor - the actor's ability to create the character he is playing without the magic of theatrical devices ... No two actors could have been better equipped to do this than Karen Tan and Loong Seng Onn.'
The play had some political overtones. The first line after a huge projection of the Senior Minister was "Jesus is the son of God", and this was followed at one point by images of (amongst other things) masses of people doing the Great Singapore Workout, and stacks of containers in a PSA terminal. You join the dots. Also at one point Tracy's father spoke about the new security personnel in their estate as coming from China. "How do we defend ourselves from the China guards" he asked, a question no doubt on the lips of many policymakers in our country today. My personal feeling though was that many of these references were clever, but not altogether well developed or even necessary. The story of Tracy's frustration with the monotony of her everyday existence was strong enough and universal enough to stand without them.
in fact that I think chances are some people are going to come to this
play and reel from the images of their own lives presented so starkly
before them. More likely than not, they will go home and feel the need
to throw a modest tantrum, maybe pig out on ice-cream and watch 'Gone
With The Wind' till two in the morning. They will then inevitably realize
that they have to go to bed because they have a slide presentation in
the morning which they have spent months preparing for, and they will
cry themselves softly to sleep.
Tze Chien makes no such mistake here. His writing shows that his understanding
of the human condition is incredibly perceptive. Needless to say then
that this play has many memorable lines. One of my all-time favourites
is when Tracy says "I wish everyday would be National Day so I can
always see fireworks in the sky, and not wonder where the fireworks are
in my life." Of course, one needs to be in the right mood for a piece
like this, as is the case even with a good Faulkner novel. The manic-depressives
amongst us therefore might just want to give this play a pass. The rest
of us though, can sit back and wallow.