>pink by the small theatre

>reviewed by kenneth kwok

>date: 21 jan 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: the substation
>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.

>>>>>concept Gone Wrong

When reviewing a piece of art, one can discuss its purely aesthetic quality, or perhaps its moral meaning or social relevance. In essence, we are exploring whether the piece of work is "good" or "bad". However, when we discuss theatre, or any artwork that is put on a public platform and therefore is part of a marketing process to sell itself, we have to consider a factor external to the work itself, and that is its publicity. This determines whether or not a production, regardless of whether or not it is intrinsically "good" - which the small theatre's PINK actually was - can be considered a success because of the Disappointment Factor (see: The Blue Room).

It is not that PINK's publicity machine - comprising road shows in shopping centres, elaborate press conferences, widespread print media coverage and cast members standing in pink footbaths and showercaps outside the National Library - was too effective and raised audience expectations to the point of no return (see: The Blue Room. Again. Actually, no, don't). Rather the publicity promised audiences something that it did not actually deliver simply as a matter of content (as opposed to delivery).

>>'All the bits and bobs were just accessories and only distracted from Lee's fine performance'

PINK professed to be more than just a showcase for newcomer Linda Lee to sing some songs and impress us with her vocal gymnastics: "New Concept Theatre!" "You'll Never See Pink As Just Another Colour!" "It's just singing ... Right?" Nudge Nudge Wink Wink. Well, actually, yes, that's all it was. This one and a half hour long production consisted simply of the very enjoyable Lee - a truly wonderful find with a rich and versatile voice - performing original Mandarin compositions of the guitar-driven, Emil-Chau type, an uproarious Four Non Blondes cover and four Jazz classics (these admittedly required a little more sass and "soul" than Lee was able to give them, although she did tremendously well considering that she only discovered Jazz a year ago).

All the hype and hoopla about using video cameras to screen what goes on backstage and bringing it onstage consisted basically of six television sets at the front of the set which showed members of the cast mucking around in what was essentially a local version of The Blair Witch Project ie a horror film passing off as a real-life documentary passing off as real life. Which in itself is fine. This "Ring" parody was so over-the-top and yet so knowing that it hit all the right notes (although the irreverent potshots against a certain performing arts body which denied the small theatre a grant eventually wore a little thin - especially when complemented by six-foot tall posters in the foyer and the director coming on to give a speech about this matter at the end of the show. Sorry guys, but erm, we got the point ten minutes ago) The dance routine to Cher's "Strong Enough" by the crew of PINK was equally fun and fabulous. And I even liked the silly pink aliens that wandered on stage. But by the time a shower of ping pong balls came raining down from the ceiling as a finale, you couldn't help but think: Gimmick. Gimmick. Gimmick. Because none of these were linked to each other - or to Lee's performances - in any even vague way. It's as if someone said, Hey, I've got a clever idea. And another guy said, Hey, so do I. And the producers just threw all these clever - and they were very clever and well-executed - visual ideas into the mix without any attempt to structure them into a story arc or to even breathe any sort of relevance into them.

In the end, all these bits and bobs were just accessories and if anything, only distracted from Lee's fine performance. It's sort of like having this stunning masterpiece in your art collection and marketing to audiences for a really pretty lampshade that you have placed next to the picture instead. If PINK had just been promoted as a sort of mini-concert for Lee, fair enough, two thumbs up. Great show. I'll buy her CD because I tell you, this girl is going to be Singapore's answer to Faye Wong. But in trying to break new ground with Concept Theatre (complete with capital C and T), that is where the small theatre mis-stepped and turned what could have been a night of pure and simple entertainment into a bombastic carnival in which the whole was less than the sum of its parts. I applaud the small theatre for its enthusiasm, its colour, its vigour but remember: Less Is More.

And Pink beats Red.