>apb inspire fest - double takes by the srt's young co.

>reviewed by student writer fong li ling

>date: 15 oct 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: dbs arts centre
>rating: see below

>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.


> 'The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds': ***

Be thankful if you do not find yourself identifying with anyone onstage, for this family was, no doubt about it, dysfunctional. Enter Grace Huang playing Tillie, the younger of the family's two daughters, who experiments with the effect of radiation on marigolds for a science fair competition. Her mother (Grace Lam) has never been supportive of what Tillie does in school, and has even gone to the extent of stopping her daughter from attending school. When Tillie gets into the final and wins, her mother is not in the least proud of her.

The ride started off a little bumpy. Huang began the play with a short monologue about how she fell in love with the word 'atom'. The background music was beautiful, and so was the blue, starry light that rotated above her, but she was rather inaudible from the circle seats.

It was evident that Director Adelina Ong had paid quite a lot of attention to the technicalities of the production. The scene changes were precise and, more often than not, the visual aspects were well looked after. From the rotating blue star light at the beginning to the thunder and dark blue lighting that accompanied it, the audience was treated to an array of meticulously designed lighting and sound.

As the story unfolded, the actors' performances picked up steadily. Grace Lam as Beatrice Tillie's bitter and self-destructive mother quickly and firmly established her character, as did Nadia Daeng playing Ruth, Tillie's sister. Both actresses took most of the limelight, perhaps because they had the most lines, but both of them suffered from a similar problem: at times it sounded like they were going to blurt out a "lah" after their line, and this almost led me to wonder whether the play was supposed to have been localised. Daeng also occasionally became too whiny for her own good, which made her sound nothing like an older sister.

I suppose silence is truly golden. Carol Anne Tong, who took on the role of the unwanted Nanny, deserves credit for drawing the most laughs. Tong was almost unrecognizable beneath the big, round black-rimmed glasses, knitted bonnet and hunch she was wearing, and came across as senile… in a cute kind of way. She did not have any lines; she was just there in her own little world yet appeared incredibly striking. Also worth a mention is Huang, whose role gave her considerably fewer lines than Lam and Daeng, but when it was her turn to speak, her fairly deep voice made Tillie sound like a sensible and bright girl beneath that shy and simple exterior, setting her apart from her sister and mother.

>>'There was quite a number of similarities between the two performances, strengths and weaknesses included'

Compared to today's youth, I would say that to a certain extent, Tillie and Ruth are lucky to be free from what their mother expects of them academically, or rather, what she does not expect of them. Yet, would anyone actually be thankful if their parents did not give two hoots about them? The play triggered off this thought in the minds of a young audience used to complaining about their parents.

Then again, in a way it would be unfair to point a finger at Beatrice and label her a bad mother. She was the usual overbearing and "naggy" mother, two maternal features we can easily identify with. And she was not without love for her daughters, as evidenced by a scene where she told Ruth a story to comfort her after when she had been awakened by a nightmare.

At the same time, her behaviour could be down to the fact that Tillie reminded Beatrice of her own childhood, when she was called a "loon" by her schoolmates. Beatrice's lack of support for Tillie (who was perceived as a freak before the competition) was probably because Beatrice did not want her daughter to suffer the same fate she went through.

> 'Tom & Jerry': **1/2

Not cat and mouse this time, but two hit-men who work for the "Syndicate". Tom (Daren Tan) is mentor to Jerry (Kartik Menon), the young rookie. Both are eager to complete each mission successfully, and a competition slowly develops between the pair to decide who is more capable of finishing off their victim(s).

Though the setting and the mood of 'Tom & Jerry' were totally different from that of 'Gamma Rays', there was in fact, quite a number of similarities between the two performances, strengths and weaknesses included.

Just as Ong had done, directors Christian Huber and Wendy Ng perhaps had worked hard on the technical aspects of the piece. The actors were well-rehearsed and this showed in the blocking and in the scene changes. The sound and lighting were designed with much precision and complemented each other. A particularly memorable moment came when Teresa Teng's 'The Moon Represents My Heart' drifted out of the speakers as a build up to a Chinese restaurant setting, inducing many laughs from the audience.

But there were of course problems. Menon as Jerry had a problem with his accent, which seemed to be aiming at Italy. It started out quite strong at the beginning of the play, but faded rather as the performance progressed. Additionally, neither performance was quite as polished as it should have been, presumably due to opening night jitters.

The show started off in an entertaining fashion, with Tom, Jerry and one of their victims telling jokes while waiting for a telephone call. But while the jokes were indeed funny, eventually, when you hear more or less the same jokes being told again and again, you can't help but find them dry, and sometimes, lame. The progression of the play was episodic; identical to the same-titled cartoon we are all familiar with. With this key resemblance in mind, perhaps the jokes should be forgiven, because after all, the cat and the mouse we have known since young did more stupid things while trying to outdo each other. Besides, the audience (at least those around me) did seem to enjoy the jokes considerably.

The relatively dark setting throughout the entire play set the atmosphere for the environment the men were in, one that was filled with people who seem to be pleasant and harmless on the outside but actually have ulterior motives. There was no room for trust or naïveté, which was why Jerry, the inexperienced one, ended up dying first.

The piece reflects upon the pragmatism and unforgiving nature of modern society - do it well or be damned. More often than not, there is no room for mistakes. One wrong move and, like Jerry, you may face impending doom.