>such sweet sorrow by the necessary stage

>reviewed by kenneth kwok

>date: 5 mar 2004
>time: 8pm
>venue: the victoria theatre
>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.
 

>>>>>LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDOURED THING

One of the tenets of the Necessary Stage's annual M1 Theatre Connection, name change from M1 Youth Connection notwithstanding, has always been "the promotion of theatre for … young Singaporeans".

It is a sad fact that many youths in Singapore feel alienated by this big, scary animal known as theatre. Somehow it is easier to plonk down $6.50 for the latest Hollywood flick than to go down to SISTIC and book tickets for a play. Is it the cost? The convenience of buying tickets at the venue itself? Is it the mindset that theatre is for an alleged elite?

Whatever the reason, as more and more schools arrange for students to attend theatre performances, hopefully, things will change. When students are exposed to good theatre, it will, so the theory goes, motivate them to seek out more of the same on their own accord. Equally important, fingers crossed, it will also inspire them to explore the creation of their own theatre pieces and give our next generation of artists a stronger foundation to build from.

M1 Theatre Connect's SUCH SWEET SORROW, dubbed a "remix" of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet', will, I believe, do just that.

The play, written by resident playwright Haresh Sharma and directed by Sean Tobin, is practically a textbook study of the sort of theatre that appeals to young people. It deals with the universal theme of love, the way it simultaneously brings hope, joy, the judgment of others, hurt and pain, and is told through the stories of three pairs of lovers - all of whom have cultural touchstones for young Singaporeans to connect with: conjoined twins, foreign maids and serial killer Adrian Lim (sex and violence, what more could a spotty teenager ask for?). The cast includes star performers like Mark Richmond (cool!), Sheikh Haikel (cooler!) and Annabelle Francis (drool!) and a stand-up comic in drag (which always gets big laughs here). And then there's the bag of theatrical tricks - dancers, physical theatre, the breaking of the fourth wall, post-modernist translation of texts - lots of "cool" stuff for budding theatre enthusiasts to think about for their next school play.

So as a teacher, I definitely recommend SUCH SWEET SORROW to schools. It will indeed entertain students, inspire them and give them things to think about.

>>'As a teacher, I definitely recommend SUCH SWEET SORROW to schools. It will indeed entertain students, inspire them and give them things to think about.'

As an adult, I was not entirely ignored either. The play does stumble a little in this respect (more seasoned theatre-goers may find little that is truly fresh or original when viewing it under a critical microscope) but it remains largely entertaining for any audience. There is much humour in the script and this is deftly delivered especially by way of the finely calibrated over-acting on the part of Sim Pern Yau (as Adrian Lim) and Peter Sau (as the narrator). There is also a very strong and clean visual sense throughout the play; Kuo Jing Hong's choreography in particular adds much texture to a production that may otherwise have been flat-lined by the sometimes clunky and over-sentimental dialogue and by narrative threads that are a little too sparse to make the audience really invest emotionally in any of the characters. Where the production really soars by any measure is in a very clever and funny bridge where the cast steps out of character and "rehearses" the play as actors. It draws laughs but also undercuts the melodrama and artificiality of romance in the rest of the play.

At the end of the day, love, it seems, is simply about people trying hard to make things work.

Where I feel the production really falls down, though, is in the third act, a wholly pointless trial scene of the different characters that goes on for far too long, and worse, is completely unnecessary in the first place. You just sit there stunned at the sheer horror of it all as every melodramatic and sensationalist cliché is drawn out; or you slowly drift off to sleep because the scene basically spells out to you everything you already know from watching the rest of the play.

And it sucks because what could have been a strong production left me instead with a very bitter aftertaste in my mouth.

Oh well, onward then to the next installment of the M1 Theatre Connect which is 'Mixed Blessings'. I shall be looking forward to that not only because I thoroughly enjoyed the first run of the play a few years back but because it is a piece of Forum Theatre and therefore … there is no third act to be mucked up!