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.
said that a good drama is one that moves you, even if you don't know the
language it's done in. This could be said of a scene in HAUNTED HOUSE
where Darren (played by Dwayne Tan) verbally slices his sister's boyfriend
Zhi Chong into quivering pieces, stabbing deep into every weakness of
past and present till Zhi Chong flees the house. Dwayne also played another
striking scene of wordless mime - which has become director Benny Lim's
trademark - manipulating five paper funerary dolls, with extraordinary
grace and elegance.
However, the script could have been tightened a lot, especially in the
first half. The media effects sometimes seemed to go on too long. The
pacing and timing of the players was good and was in the style of Practice
Theatre; and I have sometimes thought that there is a cultural aspect
to how we feel about pacing in the theatre, that is, a Chinese -culture
audience will sit quietly and appreciate the effect you are trying to
make, some time after the Western-trained audience is getting restless
and saying "Enough already, what comes next?" (Like in the movie
Lim seems to have invented a new Singaporean sub-genre - Mandarin drama
by, and for, the Mandarin-Impaired!'
I was most impressed with actor Dwayne Tan, who could draw the eye when
just sitting still, or conversely, depict terminal confrontation with
an occult force, with his back to the audience. Unfortunately the other
players, Xue Ping and Ben Yeo, tended to act like "talking heads,"
kayu from the neck down.
wrote the Mandarin script, confessing his weak ability in Chinese; Dwayne
Tan has never studied Chinese as a language, and this reviewer has very
little Chinese. These weaknesses turn to strengths in HAUNTED HOUSE, as
language is used with spare simplicity, and what we see on stage takes
priority over the words we hear. There are striking moments of stillness,
and Pinteresque silences filled with unspoken meanings. The multimedia
visuals add another dimension. Benny Lim seems to have invented a new
Singaporean sub-genre - Mandarin drama by, and for, the Mandarin-Impaired!
The multi-media effects were well-integrated into the script and technically
well-executed; whether they went on too long may, as I said, be a subjective
opinion. One ploy which didn't quite work was to have Zhi Chong, as the
boy whose love affair just broke up, sit absolutely still in a spotlight
on edge of stage, while the "sound-track" plays a plaintive
song. To make this work, you need to have an actor who can express the
deep anguish in his heart with his whole body, while sitting still. Without
this, you have not successfully made the translation from the screen with
its visual close-ups to theatre whose power is in the physical presence
of the actor. The negotiation of this transition would seem to be the
goal, of The Fun Stage's extremely interesting experiments in multi-media