>THREE FAT VIRGINS UNASSEMBLED by Fine Arts Productions and TheatreWorks

>reviewed by daniel teo

>date: 23 mar 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: the fort canning black box
>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.
 

>>>>>CHARGING UP THE WRONG LANE

There are plays you watch with your friends - and there are those you watch your friends in.

From the program booklet that proclaimed it as a "NTU Hall of Residence 8" production to the mass picture of committee members sitting on campus steps, the play made no bones about being a school production. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course but it becomes a problem when the only reason you choose to stay for the production is because your friend is acting/directing/producing.

Using Ovidia Yu's original script, the play dissected the identity of Singaporean women in the myriad roles they play everyday. Mother, wife, daughter - which of these roles define the modern Singaporean woman, or is the notion of "modern woman" defined at all? Suggesting that there is a "fat virgin in everyone of us - male, female, skinny or fat", the play attempted a broad social enquiry into our own deformed identities, the arrested emotional development of our nation.

>>'Without any clear idea of what the play meant to Singapore now, the production played out like it was still stuck in a time warp'

Despite such a large playground for the director to manoeuvre within, any freedom of interpretation was never realised because of very limp direction. Without any clear idea of what the play meant to Singapore now, the production played out like it was still stuck in a time warp - what was happening on stage seemed to have no parallel with the time we actually live in. Direction highlighted no jarring differences, no painful similarities and no contradictions between the human condition then and now. In fact the production suggested nothing beyond the painfully obvious and dated - women should have an identity beyond being the wife, you need not be beautiful and thin to be respected, women need to be a man to survive in this world... all very valid but really nothing that hasn't been addressed in 'Thelma and Louise'.

With aimless direction, the lacklustre acting made the nebulousness even more acute when the actresses couldn't flesh out their respective characters at all - everybody looked the same and all I saw were actresses A, B and C, not individual characters. The only few times the characters had any tangible differences were when the characters used stock mannerisms and clichés to make their characters louder - yet sadly in the process the characters became caricatures we see in bad sitcoms. Christina Tan's mangled characterisation of the Indian night watcher reminded one of the bad stereotypes you see in 'Growing Up' while Cynthia Lim's teacher-with-a-striptease-fantasy was the stuff of weekly 'Silk Stockings' drama.

Low production values saw nametags of actors still stuck on their clothes as they waved them in the audiences' faces and actors who broke out of character to laugh when they couldn't resist it. It was hard not to constantly see the words "school production" flash before your eyes when the director had to force her cast and crew to enter for the curtain call repeatedly as the department heads bargain and haggle in the wings pleading shyness.

In the end, it really is a matter of perspective. As the well wishers went up to the cast and crew with bouquets of flowers, it was evident that the play's attraction for the majority of the audience was more than just the play per se. Yet being part of a major theatre festival and a public performance selling tickets to a general public, the performance demanded much more than what was offered that night. For that segment of the audience that had no affiliation with their student body and who actually paid good money to watch the play, the performance was a bitter pill to swallow.