>IN THE EYE OF THE STORM by Aporia Society

>reviewed by clarence chiew

>date: 3 may 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: the substation
>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.

>>>>>heavy water

What a title! In fact, here's a sampling of the writing you could have treated yourself to, had you gone and watched this new one by the Aporia Society...

"I am the dog… the dog am I."

It was not hard to feel like you were being taken for a ride.

Still, more of us really should have gone and checked out the Aporia (that's A4ria to you) Society's 5th (and counting!) production at The Guinness Theatre. Besides being occasionally hampered by writing that tries too hard, they are quite the professional outfit. But one wonders if they intentionally limited the audience size to six on their opening night, just so they wouldn't appear hypocritical. After all, the A4rians do seem to be against the exploitation of art for commercial reasons. Behind the Ring-like façade of butter knives, spooky masks, bandage bondages and extreme ticket sales however, was an unorthodox, well-conceived presentation about the painful fluctuations of life.

Some parts of the play seemed to lack the inherent depth that productions of this nature would require. They looked like they lacked either a budget or a backdrop artist. The stage props were avant-garde new-agey, but lacked synergy as abstract elements to the piece. There was a mysterious axe chopped into a wooden block. It seemed that the axe was being presented as both victim and instigator… castrating its potency from the execution. Similarly, the white drapes lent an air of mystery as to why they were being used, for they provided little functionality and were redundant aesthetically. At times those five long pieces of cloth proved to be obstructive to the viewer. Or was that its intent?

It wouldn't be fair to say that the A4ria Society didn't have something more meaningful in which they were trying to convey. Perhaps it was nothing at all. However, what at first seemed to promise useful insights into the "fragments of our imaginations," turned out in fact to be fragments of self-indulgent moans and groans. Ironically, one of the their gripes was about society's self-indulgence and blind obsessiveness. This heavy theme could have been dealt with subtly and cleverly, as opposed to the "scolding" the audience seemed to be getting. Again, was that what they had intended?

>>'What at first seemed to promise useful insights into the "fragments of our imaginations" turned out in fact to be fragments of self-indulgent moans and groans'

Other self-indulgent bits included Tan Teow Meng's schoolboy solo. At one point, when he confesses about the lust he had for his "slut" teacher, we are left wondering if he was sexually deprived because of his psychotic stage presence, or his inability to pronounce his r's and l's. After all (as coyly as you can), not all of us had lewd fantasies about our teacher's pubic hair.

I suppose one thing you couldn't say was that IN THE EYE OF THE STORM didn't have balls. The play had the audacity to open into almost 10 minutes of deafening silence, the audience being forced to confront the non-acting actors with borrowed anticipation.

The soundtrack, on the other hand, was a refreshing juxtaposition of jerks and pulls, from the bluesy jazz riffs, to the scratchy guitar noises not uncommon to Stigmata's progressive sound. Somehow, the spasmodic music seemed to sink the production into more tolerable depths, and at times the atmosphere was both inspirational and tragic.

It is no secret that the A4rians do not consider themselves a theatre group. Just as well, for it propagates precisely what it preaches against, that is, the pretentious nature of some contemporary local theatre groups. In its monthly newsletter "Aporia," the group denounces The Necessary Stage for being "Pseudo Socio-Politico." (Only a Pseudo Socio-Political group could have come up with a description like that!) In fact, while it criticizes the latter for its "broadly simplistic" productions, it fails to live up to the hype of its own pseudo-ness. Veteran A4rian Wong Kwang Han does not establish any more authority for the group in this play, what with his character's enthusiastic rants and raves about the "City's" conspiracy against its inhabitants. It's a tad hypocritical considering what they said about TNS, and the whole "artist-as-a-victim" genre gets old.

As advised by one of the Inkpot's writers, I tried not to be too personal with this review. However, at certain points during the play, I did feel like I was being pried open and violated. In fact, there is something to be said about the symbiotic nature of our own personal experiences with the artwork at hand. I applaud the A4rians for having the guts to paddle against the current. But one hopes that as the Aporia Society crusades against the formation of an elitist arts society in Singapore, they do not exclude the freshmen who are starting to participate in this emerging marketplace of ideas. As a proponent of such a democratic creative genesis, I would rather not venture into what is right or wrong. But since they started bashing Singapore Theatre first, I say fuck the A4rians… this was a waste of precious column space.