>A TINTED EDGE by Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble

>reviewed by arthur kok

>date: 22 jun 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: the jubilee hall
>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.

>>>>>paper to clay

The bittersweet responsibility of a widow bent on placating her deceased husband. Caged in. A dutiful son whose self-will is snuffed out for his mother's insistence. Boxed in. A girl-next-door spurned by the homosexual object of her affection. Fenced out. A budding artist foregoes the company of his bosom friend out of obligation to the plaintive suasion of another. Caved in. Everyone a prisoner everywhere. Yet not completely confined nor completely joyless. As Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble's A TINTED EDGE eloquently demonstrates, one can and does on occasion escape with flights of creativity and uncomplicated humour.

Bondage is captured by the fascinating set: a cube made of criss-crossing wooden sticks canopy one character at a time just as the larger wooden backdrop with window screens presents a yet larger enclosure housing the characters. Reminiscent of the layered voyeurism in "White Sails Over Blue Seas", the audience's every effort offstage to observe the ones in the wooden cube is echoed powerfully by the nameless and at times faceless human digits who appear through the windows of the backdrop in judgement of what transpires onstage. The weighty gaze of the collective other was suggested as all encompassing and inescapable.

>>'the play demonstrates an astute understanding of the complexity of the self in society'

With A TINTED EDGE, playwright and director Goh Boon Teck shines brilliantly in his preferred Mandarin, spinning heady word play, uncanny visual spectacles and dense social commentary in quick succession. Deliberately laying on the full-lunged, emotive and spot-on chorus to magnify, comment and question the main characters' verbal action, the resultant effect is one of rapid swings between pensiveness and arousing wit. As we learn of (the son) Fulong's youthful talent with origami, the fantastical paper shapes that feature so prominently in the play offer two metaphors -- the first, the chorus each has a Miyake-esque detail on their backs, and this casts the chorus as the projection of the son's thoughts; the second, flight and escape is conveyed when the chorus at one pivotal scene carried life sized paper birds and paper horses for another. But as paper is fragile, so too the son's psyche.

The interesting metamorphosis in Fulong is introduced and embodied by a cherished token -- a clay miniature crafted by Shuifa , his bosom friend. The radiant dream of this friend and his warm affection for Fulong hardens the once filial son as clay to strive for his own life set in Europe, away from his mother and wife-hopeful. Nonetheless, Fulong's mother manages to convince Shuifa to release her son from insubstantial idealism and the latter opts to leave his friend as requested. Shuifa's final advice to Fulong to take their separation as a challenge rings hollow as the audience knows in hindsight the crippled life eked out by the latter. In this process of loving, being loved, rejecting and disappointing an other to bow to some stronger "cause", the play demonstrates an astute understanding of the complexity of the self in society.

A TINTED EDGE meets in a straight line both pathos and bathos to shimmer as a sophisticated tongue-in-cheek at the little tragedies of life.