>stray by stage pals
>reviewed by musa fazal
19 dec 2003
STRAY tells the story
of four twenty-something Singaporeans. Ray, an obsessive romantic who
spasmodically breaks out into song, has taken advantage of the economic
recession to quit his dead end job and try out all the things he never
had a chance to do. Su, his fiancée, agrees to play along with
his crazy schemes to show support. Ray and Su decide to form an activities
club (how creative young Singaporeans have become!). They manage to get
all of two people to join - Kim, the bra-stealing super-bitch with
black eye shadow, and Leo, the Cheena nerd.
One such chorus scene has an actor disinterestedly slapping fifty-dollar bills on street beggars and a "life support machine". Another amusing scene takes a well-deserved jibe at the Andrea D'Cruz saga, too often hailed as the ultimate act of Singaporean generosity, through a TV series, 'A Liver in Time'.
Sets and props are kept to a minimum. Only two boxes painted red with white stars clutter the stage, rather crudely reminding you in case you weren't aware that this play is an indictment of all things Singaporean. Far more subtle and interesting is the use of meta-text in this play. A doorway in the back of the stage is cut out revealing an old woman in a cubicle, pounding herbs with a mortar and pestle, folding clothes, smoothening out old newspapers, and feeding stray animals. The 4 leads never communicate with this old woman, and she never speaks, but her understated presence throughout is the play's most powerful and damning critique of the society we live in.
>>'For a play determined to lash out against the restrictions imposed by a paternalistic society, the criticisms this play makes are just too tedious, pedantic and old.'
Several of the ideas in this play, especially in the chorus scenes, are interesting but badly executed. In several scenes the actors become animals, clocks, or machines ala Acting 101 workshops, but their physical movements are untidy and amateurish. Many of the chorus actors look constipated throughout the performance, and their ignominy is made complete by the torn pieces of clothing they are made to wear as costumes.
The 4 leads are a tad more polished. Chong Shu Ying and Zarelda Marie Goh who play Kim and Su respectively are quite good. Don Shiau who plays Ray thinks he can sing better than he really can, but is on the whole a competent actor playing an annoyingly sappy role. Co-director Aaron Tan plays Leo, and watching him act, one understands why the play has turned out looking the way it does.
Emeric Lau, playwright and co-director of STRAY, mentions in the programme that he is troubled by the dearth of local writing in Singapore. STRAY is his attempt to fill this void. For me the tragedy in Lau's attempt lies in his narcissistic self-indulgence. None of his characters portray the diversity of young Singaporeans as the flyer proclaims. All of them portray Lau. Why else would the play start with Lau, have him sitting in the front row filming the performance throughout, and then end with him onstage gazing on his characters beatifically?
is just a wandering of Lau's mind, a contemplation of alternatives,
a deviant's exploration of possibilities. What makes straying with
Lau so dissatisfying is that one gets the impression Lau hasn't
strayed far enough for any meaningful new insights to be gleaned. For
a play determined to lash out against the restrictions imposed by a paternalistic
society, the criticisms this play makes are just too tedious, pedantic