>CHESTNUTS UNLOADED: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL BUBBLE TEA by Stages

>reviewed by kenneth kwok

>date: 23 dec 2003
>time: 8pm
>venue: dbs arts centre
>rating: ****

>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 RETURN OF THE KINGS

"Go watch the show!" the Flying Inkpot screamed in 2001, reminded the publicity for Stages' CHESTNUTS UNLOADED.

On 23 December, I decided I would heed my own advice - although I suppose technically it wasn't mine since I hadn't written that particular review (chalk it up to an editor's prerogative).

Needless to say, the show, an annual (give or take a year) two-man comedy revue by Jonathan Lim and Sean Yeo, was indeed a night of much side-splitting, tears-in-your-eyes merriment, although uniquely for CHESTNUTS, without a single Santa's hat or jingle bell in sight. The Grinch may have stolen the Christmas theme from this year's CHESTNUTS but the Cat was definitely still in the Hat! Even the programme and pre-show music were funny.

>>'It is easy to see why CHESTNUTS has established for itself such a cult following. '

Sure, quite a lot of the laughs, especially the film parodies, were so obvious, you'd probably have thought of them before - Ian McKellen spouting his Magneto lines while filming 'The Lord of the Rings', Michael Jackson as Freddy Kreuger, Finding Ne(m)o et al - but there was much fun in finally seeing them out of your mind's eye and actually on-stage in performance.

Where else could you go to watch two grown men bring your fantasies to life for your own twisted pleasure? On second thoughts, don't answer that.

And, of course, the delivery is the thing, especially when you've got a couple of hi-NRG charmers like Yeo and Lim. Lim's perspiration aside, they made the work look so effortless and easy. Hey, even a title like 'Time To Touch My Bum' will not sell on its own. It was the pair's three-headed Cheeky Girls-Andrea Bocelli-Sarah Brightman monster that prevented the skit from drying up after the first chorus.

Which made me wonder why, despite having such consummate performers, writer Lim decided to leave all the filler in. Re-imagining 'Forbidden City' from Kit Chan's point of view as 'Forbidden Kit-ty', for example, was a one-joke skit that simply dragged on for too long while the talk show segment with its instructional oral sex demonstration committed the cardinal sin of being crass without being funny. CHESTNUTS could easily have been trimmed to a one-hour show that would have been golden and truly clever and inspired throughout. The fact is that easy comparisons to the 'Scary Movie' franchise do not actually do justice to CHESTNUTS because the material in the 'Scary Movie' trilogy never once hit the heights that CHESTNUTS' often but not always did. My personal favourite after the morning news programme which offered a gay spin on all of the day's news, was the skit revolving around the Eminem song, 'Without Me'. What I loved about it wasn't just that Lim's new lyrics fit so seamlessly into the song's original melody but having Eminem, the poster boy for anti-censorship, being used as a rallying cry for street vendors selling pirated VCDs was a stroke of genius. "Your screens so empty without me"? Brilliant!

It is easy to see why CHESTNUTS has established for itself such a cult following. Admittedly, the in-jokes about local theatre - and there are quite a few of them - may put off audience members but fret not, for there is more than enough for everyone. You'd have to basically not have seen a movie or switched on the radio in 2003 to feel completely left out. In which case, you are way too sad to be watching something as cool as CHESTNUTS anyway!

In other words, luvvies, don't worry about winning a Life! Theatre Award! You know you've really got it made when you've been parodied by CHESTNUTS!