>mines by agni kootthu
>reviewed by kenneth kwok
22 jun 2002
MINES writer-director Elangovan believes that art "should conscientise, confront and question accepted societal stereotypes of vision, perception, feeling and judgement to examine reality as a historical and social process". And there is no question as to MINES' achieving this. Long into the night and the next morning, my friend and I were still tearing away at the issues explored in the script - race, military defence, land rights, water agreements. It made us ask ourselves how much we really knew about the world around us and, more importantly, made us face the realisation that we cannot keep saying that these are faraway things for other people to settle in other places.
War, for example, is not simply an article in Newsweek. It is a part of my life too, no matter how much I choose not to see it that way. And maybe I should stop trying not to. Or have I forgotten that landmines and chemical warfare are certainly a very real part of my life as an NSman? We may not want to see it that way when we go through the drills during in-camp training but there it is. As the play itself says, we need to remember that war is not just about ammunition, it is about people - and not just People with a capital P like, "real, everyday People somewhere out there," but people as in you and me.
>>'Those who expect MINES to be all angry soap-boxing and banner-waving, will find here a story with relatively strong, well-fleshed out characters'
The play undermined itself at many points so you were never entirely sure which facts were true and which were not. The two enemy soldiers (played by Max Ling and Faizal) argue and counter-argue with accelerating ferocity but with each drawing on such a plethora of facts that you cannot help but be sceptical about some of them. And then a third soldier appears and he declares who has been speaking the truth about his country and who hasn't but then you later learn he's not exactly an entirely neutral or trustworthy character either.
So whom do
you trust? That's the point. None of them. You go away and you decide
for yourself, based on your own research, reflection and reading. And
that, for me, is the "conscientisation" that Elangovan is preaching.
We are not meant to just sit there and absorb his words; he is firing
us up to ask questions and take the trouble to know about the world around
us, to sort out the lies, half-truths and truths we are fed, by him as
much as by everyone else. We are being prodded to seek truth; we should
not expect to be given it: in short, we should forget we are Singaporeans.
that, a major weakness of the play was the acting, with the exception
of Ahamed Ali Khan, although even he gave a pretty much one-note performance.
I know it is a very difficult thing that they had to do, each man having
to sustain the play under the weight of great limitations, but Ling, in
particular, delivered a rather stiff and nervous performance and often
lacked the ability to pull off the rhetoric without it appearing simply
as that. Faizal fared a bit more successfully, with a softer performance
and came across more accessible and genuine but even he slipped into Sandiwara
melodrama at points. Mind you, both are relative newcomers to the local
theatre scene, being either a current student at LASALLE or a recent graduand
and I'm sure the experience of MINES will hold them in good stead for