white road by the singapore repertory theatre young company
19 jul 2001
British fantasist Neil Gaiman has worked in a range of media - novels, short stories, graphic novels and television - but has not, to my knowledge, found an existence on stage. The Singapore Repertory Theatre Young Company are now making good this lack with their adaptation THE WHITE ROAD, which will enjoy a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe after playing at the DBS Auditorium here.
The evening gets off to an uncertain start with a short excursion into another of Gaiman's works, 'The Dream Hunters'. Sadly the company has chosen to excise all but the bare bones of the plot, making it hard to see why they included this segment at all. In his story Gaiman, abetted by Yoshitaka Amano's haunting illustrations, described in vivid detail the nightmare landscapes travelled by his protagonist; on stage, we are only told that he suffers from "bad dreams".The play only gets into its stride when it embarks upon "The White Road" proper, a dark tale on the cauchemarish edge of fairy tales. Diana Natalie puts in a fluid, intense performance as the narrator, even if she does occasionally flub her lines, and one hopes she will learn to pronounce the word 'tethered' correctly.
For the most part, the company puts in a slick, polished performance with some remarkable ensemble work. They are completely in sync with each other, and their movements are clearly thought-out and well-rehearsed. The inexperience of the actors shows, however, in their improvised responses - would a medieval girl say "Yeah!" as a sign of approbation?
>>Gaiman's sensibility is evident in this work, with its blend of deconstructed fairy tales imbued with a more primal, dangerous edge. What is missing is his voice, with its wry, gentle humour.'
The production values of the company are near flawless. Costumes - blood-red sashes on earth tones - were simple and effective. Lighting and sound were used to good effect, but not intrusive. Most impressive of all was the reliance of the cast on good acting rather than flashy effects, a trap too many 'multi-media' performances fall into.
heel of this production is its script. There is no playwright credited,
which is always a bad sign. The lines betray their prose origins with
far too much narration - do we need someone to be saying things like "She
sits" or "Says my father-in-law" when we can see them happening
professionalism and commitment on display this evening were admirable,
although a tighter script and more emphasis on character-work would have
been nice. Overall THE WHITE ROAD is a major accomplishment for a company
who are all under twenty-four, and an impressive attempt at capturing
an elusive writer on stage.