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.
>>>>>WHAT'S SO BEAUTIFUL ABOUT THE DAY?
billed as a story "built on earth shattering emotions", the
play never quite comes close to that but in actuality possesses the feel
of a nice breeze on a beautiful day. The play ruffles no feathers nor
has the explosive nature of the earthquake that was simulated in the play,
but instead it treads on a reflective and wistful path of memories and
emotional ties. BEAUTIFUL DAY, Dramabox's opening performance of 2002,
eschews the company's usual community-based topics to present a tender
drama of relationships within selves and between others. Lasting a short
one and quarter hours, the play is a small intimate encounter with personal
journeys, with life's inexplicability and its inexorable desires and obsessions,
and with other tangential entanglements of the heart.
of the story is first founded on a tripartite relationship between an
unnamed woman (played by Tang Wan Chin), an unnamed man (Ng Wei Min) and
Momoe Yamaguchi. The man embarks on a journey in search of Yamaguchi,
a Japanese pop idol of the 70s and 80s who has mesmerised him for nearly
two decades since his teenage years. Now he leaves home for Japan to look
for clues that might explain why his memories of Yamaguchi linger on though
his first glance of her was on the silver screen some 20 years ago. The
woman, a friend of the man, wishes for him not to make the trip when she
learns that an earthquake is about to hit Japan. Her warnings fall upon
deaf ears and she does not understand his persistent obsession with Yamaguchi.
An earthquake finally does take place (although only in her dreams), not
to the man but to herself in Singapore. This symbolic quake is the opening
up of her suppressed and unrequited affections for the man and her opposing
frustrations with growing old into a predictable marriage and the possibility
of living under the shadow of someone else's fixation. The later introduction
of Tomakazu Miura (Yamaguchi's long-time on-screen lover and real-life
husband, whom she retired to be with at the height of her popularity)
shifts the triangle to a pair of parallel relationships between the man
and woman and the Miuras. The man finally gets to the front door of Yamaguchi's
home but turns away from finally meeting her as he does not want to invade
her privacy since she has deliberately attempted to lead a life out of
the limelight. Instead he returns home and meets up with the woman.
>>'To address the improbabilities of life and discoveries of the
self, BEAUTIFUL DAY needs to be more than a paean to Momoe Yamaguchi'
For BEAUTIFUL DAY, the highlight of the performance lies in its unusual
mode of presentation, due largely to the uncommon vision of director Lim
Wee Bin. The mis-en-scène provides a semiotically charged environment
that sometimes becomes more suggestive than the actual spoken lines. Relying
on a split stage of a suspended cloth screen that divides the central
platform into two, the audience can only get to view one of the two performers
and merely hear the other for most of the performance. We are made to
view this as signifying a tension or an impending collision between two
worlds - one rational and calculated and the other impulsive and unfathomable;
one of the immediate present and the other of the indefinite, infinite
past; one of Singapore and the other of Japan. At one end of the stage
hangs a pair of inflatable lips and on the opposite end, an ear. But the
spoken structures of the play desist from any direct dialogue save for
the first and last scenes. Instead, through an ingenious turn by playwright
Lee Shyh Jih, they each perform a seeming monologue but with lines that
cross-cut and answer to each other at opportune moments, texturising the
play with interjections and echoes. Other memorable sequences include
the simulated earthquake, which whilst ostensibly showing the crumbling
of the woman's inner world, is really a good effect of dramatic rhythms
with the sounds of falling objects overhead augmenting and controlling
the progression and pace of her anguish and incredulity. Another is the
chase sequence of attempts to locate Yamaguchi, which is a humorous affair
with documentary video projections exposing the Momoe-craze in Japan,
where knowledge of Yamaguchi's residence is said to be a prerequisite,
even to obtain a cab licence. At other times, the multimedia projections
cast still-images that create other evocative meanings which are either
in tandem or at variance with the movements on stage - with some more
successful than others.
Yet, despite these outward trappings, the content of BEAUTIFUL DAY's writing
is mostly unfulfilled. Akin to the sporadic images on the video screen,
the play gestures towards many things but stops short of revealing what
is found. From the references to our obsessions with Hello Kitty to the
intended outcome of superimposing the Yamaguchi/Miura relationship on
the man and the woman, we are not clear about their raison d'être
or the depth of their associations. What does the man finally understand
about his fascination with his idol through the reinvestigation of Yamaguchi
and Miura's lives? Why does he feel that Yamaguchi has a more veritable
presence than anyone else in his life and that he has come to the edge
of the world and does not need to seek anywhere else when at her doorstep?
We are not illuminated: these aspects are left undeveloped in the script.
Like the staging of the play, we get only half-veiled truths. There is
an inordinate amount of re-enacting the traces of Yamaguchi and her love
life through the means of her songs, her television serials and her autobiography
without necessarily demonstrating its significance to the play. Is it
mere insight into the lives of this pair of legendary lovers or are we
to be knee-jerked into feeling admiration for this romantic recast of
and bathetic ending of the play give an unremarkable finish to the below-the-surface
disturbances and unsettled feelings that the play wants to hint at. It
appears that the end points towards finding a resolution or a gravitational
point for happiness through the meeting of a life-partner. Shrouded in
a nostalgic atmosphere of hot chocolate and pretty Japanese stationery,
the final scene is a tad saccharine and conciliatory. Has the man moved
forward and found himself in coming home or is he still ensconced in his
romanticised kitsch, defining himself and relationships through what he
knows of the Miuras?
And I have
only one thing left to say: to address the improbabilities of life and
discoveries of the self, BEAUTIFUL DAY needs to be more than a paean to