>fugitives by dramabox
>reviewed by adi soon
29 nov 2002
>>>>>A POINTLESS ESCAPE
It was a feeling of incompleteness that marred the otherwise excellent presentation.
We are all fugitives it seems, running away from one thing or the other. This was a play that dealt with a multitude of issues. Among them, Materialism, Lesbianism, Sense of Self, Personal Worth and above all in vivid focus, Inequalities arising from racial and religious foundations.
In the presentation
of these modern day re-interpreted fugitives, there was really nothing
to fault. It was sustained with a textural dialogue that had a familiar
tune, suggesting the obvious attention to detail that the playwrights
had in crafting it. It was the kind of dialogue one had heard before and
in that sense it was tremendously satisfying to hear. Neither too was
the pace ever draggy despite the fact that it could have been, considering
the ambitious scope of topics covered.
terms of capturing the reality of these vignettes, the playwrights have
but where do we go from here? Maybe next time someone
will tell me.'
I am asking too much of the playwrights, perhaps their solution is not
so much a solution, but an admittance that these problems are too much
to solve through the medium of theatre, or perhaps are too big and beyond
anybody's capabilities. Perhaps I could have discerned this through the
character of Kok Ming, who realising the racist bent of his preconceptions,
decides to embrace liberal ideas and take the path of challenging the
system, yet in the end finds himself being chastised by his platoon mate
for not being practical. In this sudden reversal, I was momentarily as
confused as Kok Ming. After a time, I realised how overwhelmingly complex
these arguments were. Considering this, it is easy to see how in the end,
the playwrights chose to have Kok Ming and Zainal settle into a kind of
comfortable co-existence, which really doesn't eliminate the problem nor
suggest anything of a possible new way to do so.
One thing that worked well was the strategy of having the play in Mandarin, English and Hokkien. That Mandarin was the dominant language in use mirrored the politics of the play's themes and also the composition of Singapore society as a whole. Intentionally or not, it further suggested the different viewpoints different people would take in accessing the same situation though one would have had to be in the majority (Chinese, presumably) to appreciate what some members of the audience clearly were not able to. It didn't help that the subtitled translation provided on the screen was rather stilted and did not give a complete sense of the spoken dialogue. Considering the composition of the audience that included some Malays, Indians and Caucasians, I wondered what kind of interpretation these groups would take away with them.
This one flaw however did not detract from the otherwise commendable performances given by all the actors. Their skill level ranged from good to outstanding, with nary a mediocre performance in sight. For this, credit surely must be given to the director for drawing out the intense characterisation that made each performance. Personally, I enjoyed the performances of Steven Woon as Grandfather, Chin Chong Hua as Father, Rosalan Mohd Daud as Samad, Mohammad Sani Hussin as Zainal and Lin Shi Yun as Daughter's friend. In that list I've already named half of the cast, which in itself, is an indication of the strong acting. Others will no doubt have their favourites among the other competent members of the cast. Steven Woon, especially managed to evoke much sympathy from his fragile performance that I almost wanted to run from the audience to help him.
of capturing the reality of these vignettes, the playwrights have succeeded.
But the clever arguments presented were perhaps a little too much considering
the complexity of the issues involved. It would be nice to be relieved
of this endless cycle of showing what's going on, and to be offered a
probable direction towards something else.