>k by toy factory theatre ensemble

>reviewed by jeremy samuel

>date: 10 mar 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: toy factory theatrette
>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.


In Kafka's 'Metamorphosis', a travelling salesman named Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find he has turned into a giant insect. Unable to communicate with other people, he is forced out of society, of which he takes an increasingly jaundiced view. Goh Boon Teck's K is a riff on this idea - he has seven people transforming likewise, then, as the programme has it, "audiences are treated to a cynical humour when the bugs recall their days as humans."

The trouble is that the bugs in K don't seem to have been particularly impressive specimens as human beings. The products of a repressive society and overly organised education system, they have grown into vapid, materialistic yuppies, "busy but empty". They are air stewardesses, journalists, vice-presidents of banks. Their days are crammed with meaningless activities like jogging - exercise to fill the void that is their life.

>>'One minute the cast is doing a plausible impersonation of executives at a cocktail party... the next they are writhing on the floor chanting in unison.'

The acting shifts from the naturalistic to the heavily stylised. One minute the cast is doing a plausible impersonation of executives at a cocktail party, feinting and thrusting with razor-sharp sarcasm, the next they are writhing on the floor chanting in unison. The ensemble cast work together competently enough, but for all their energy there is little chemistry amongst them, and a couple of the actors really need to enunciate more.

Goh directs efficiently, shaping his material well, but his main point - that modern society is spiritually empty and that we are all on a soulless treadmill of school-career-death - is hardly original.

Nor is he subtle in putting this across. One segment, which shows children being forced by their parents onto the only acceptable career path, medicine, has the cast chanting together: "We are all doctors. We have all become doctors. But then who are the patients? ... Everyone in this society is a patient." Quite.

The set consists simply of ladders spread across the stage area. The actors are up and down these constantly, creating a textured, three-dimensional playing space. There are many arresting visual images to be had out of this, along with Goh's inventive choreography, but ultimately the banality of what the production has to say destroys our interest in how it says it.

The idea behind the play seems to have been that turning into an insect alienates one from human society, allowing for a dispassionate examination of our lives. The effect, however, is of short-sighted bugs only able to perceive the superficialities of this life, oblivious to the private thought and emotion that validate these apparently meaningless rituals. The play ends with all seven bugs writhing on the ground, dying, before being swept up in a white cloth which may or may not represent a mosquito net. As with Gregor Samsa, real life has proved too much for them.