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Production

Private (Partly) - House of Flying Chestnuts

Company

Stages

Reviewer

Deanne Tan

Date

24/11/2004

Time

8.00pm

Place

Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel

Rating

***

Attack of the Killer Chestnuts

House of Flying Chestnuts lived up to its legacy and delivered a massive truckload of funny. A spirit of madcap irreverence permeated the over two-hour long show, with the frenetic pace onstage showcasing the newly-built chemistry between jokers Jonathan Lim and Hossan Leong; the pair's abandonment of restraints such as taste and politeness (darling, they're so passé!) was a breath of fresh air.

In the spirit of unforgiving Chestnuts humour, no one was spared in the quest for comedic truth-telling. Not content to ridicule the Singaporean theatre scene for its pervasion of camp actors and general artistic lifelessness, Chestnuts brutally spoofed government campaigns, hit movies, celebrities and advertisements such as the one for Yun Nam haircare. There was a little something for everyone, from those in the theatre clique to the man on the street - perhaps this universal generosity was the closest Chestnuts ever got to the spirit of Christmas.

The spoof of Kill Bill Vol. 2 pretty much set the stage for the rest of the show. It was something most arts-goers would cringe to admit was funny with its liberal use of men in drag, dialect and bad gongfu. There were other corny but hilarious spoofs, like the spoof of Zoe Tay's community service advertisement to "exercise just 30 minutes a day", and the "Minister Mentos" that saved PM Lee's rally speech.

On a more traditional, theatre-centric note, there were repeated pokes at W!ld Rice and its tendency to spend lavishly, employ the same flamboyant actors and pay little attention to other aspects of its performances. Flippant jokes about W!ld Rice's cross-dressing artistic director struck a chord with those in the audience who had unsuspectingly bought theatre tickets to a drag show once too often. Further insights were displayed in the "spoof list" of this year's productions. Lim and Leong hit the nail on the head with takes on W!ld Rice's Visit of the Tai Tai, Checkpoint Theatre's Opiume and TheatreWorks' Ma: Moment.

The fictional Silver Ribbon Project spoofed, predictably but successfully, the sentimental preachiness of the Yellow Ribbon Project, with guest Karen Tan playing an actor being rehabilitated into mainstream society. Jonathan Lim's deadpan narrator and Tan's wide-eyed loony were worryingly believable. And did I also detect a barely-voiced allusion to society's rigid mindset about those among us who are different?

Towards the second half, as audience exhaustion began to set in, it became clear that House of Flying Chestnuts was dropping the ball with a number of weak skits in the generally strong mix. While the attacks on the local theatre scene were generally dead on, the cheaper shots (like seeing Hossan in drag insulting Jamie Yeo for the nth time) were unnecessary stocking fillers that added to the length of the programme. These mediocre spoofs also gave the show an air of haphazardness - somewhat like that of an assembly-time class skit.

This was a pity, since a little more editing could have elevated the show to the level of classier satires such as Atomic Jaya and The Dim Sum Dollies. Perhaps the Chestnuts duo should reserve their claws for more theatre spoofs, since no one else does them with such relish and thoroughness.


"Flippant jokes about
W!ld Rice's cross-dressing artistic director struck a chord with those in the audience who had unsuspectingly bought theatre tickets to a drag show once too often"

Previous Productions by Stages
Chestnuts Unloaded: The Curse of the Black Pearl Bubble Tea

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

More Reviews by Deanne Tan

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.