>HOSSAN: GASSED UP, SPAMMED UP BUT NOT HANDING OVER YET by The World Media Group

>reviewed by kenneth kwok

>date: 2 oct 2004
>time: 5pm
>venue: agf auditorium, alliance >francaise
>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.
 

>>>>>LAUGH LINES

A one-man comedy show. It all boils down to one thing: Is it funny? Sure, you can talk about the music, the political barbs but at the end of the day, you want to know if the show made me laugh.

And that it did.

Hossan Leong is always a pleasure to watch on-stage because you believe in him as performer. You believe he is genuinely enjoying himself up there and that he is genuinely wanting you to enjoy yourself too. Stand-up can be quite solipsistic but Hossan never runs so far away with his material that he forgets the audience before him that he has to - and wants to - work.

However, if I was to nit-pick, I would say Hossan was not on top form this time around compared to some earlier work that I've seen him in, both in terms of plays as well as stand-up. Of course, even Hossan's above average is better than most people's very good but still, I'd say he seemed a little less confident this time around. It might have been the venue which was too large to be intimate for a one-man stand-up and too small to create the illusion of a spectacular production, or perhaps it was the lethargic vibe of the lazy Saturday afternoon crowd. But whatever the reason, there were quite a few awkward moments when he stalled to gather his thoughts and his attempts to cover them by sipping from a bottle of mineral water served to accentuate rather than mask them. There were also patches where the delivery was just a little too perfect and therefore came off a little over-rehearsed.

>>'Hossan Leong is always a pleasure to watch on-stage because you believe in him as performer.'

Having said that, it is no mean feat to single-handedly carry the weight of a 90-minute show and Hossan did a commendable job all things considered. Elton John's recent comments about Madonna lip-synching in concert were countered by the Evening Standard's John Aizlewood who said, "The audience has a choice: if you don't want the spectacle, you'll get the singing. If you want the spectacle, you can't have proper live singing." Likewise, I felt that Hossan took a brave step in presenting a one-man stand-up without the frills, thrills and bills of say, his idols 'Dim Sum Dollies' or the Boom Boom Room. It is much harder to keep the audience with you without feather boas, tiaras, Bollywood production numbers and a million costume changes - when it is just one man and his microphone. (And a toy dog which was humping that microphone.)

The only other "accessory" Hossan had on-stage was his live band, and the songs did add some texture to the performance as a whole. Hossan has a lovely voice and the re-written lyrics to familiar songs by ABBA, Billy Joel and Culture Club were cheap laughs but laughs nonetheless, taking digs as they did about the baby bonuses, Singapore's political history and the competition in ticket sales that Hossan was facing from a certain musical production that was going on at the Esplanade at the same time.

In terms of his stand-up material, Hossan has said that he was surprised he got away with as much as he did this time around, but for me, the material was largely safe and was shocking only in its predictability (aforementioned raunchy toy dog notwithstanding). Even so-called "sensitive material" about Singapore going gay, our new Prime Minister or Dr Chee Soon Juan was funny but lacked bite because it neither offered new insights nor revealed truly harsh truths.

In an interview with Hossan before the show, he said that, for him, the comedy came first and second, he wanted his material to be a representation on-stage of the thoughts in the heads of average Singaporeans, just heightened to be funnier. On both these fronts, HOSSAN was very successful - it kept the audience chortling and was a sprightly mix of family fun, political jibes and song parodies that had a warm and fuzzy familiarity to it.

But we already knew Hossan could do all this in his sleep. Just as Singapore has already proven to be a success story but now needs to push itself a little more, I feel the same can be said of our Singapore Boy.