>UNDER THE LAST DUST by The Necessary Stage

>reviewed by kenneth kwok

>date: 20 oct 2000
>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.

>>>>>a little miss understanding

God, I wish I knew where to begin.

Well, let me start by saying that watching UNDER THE LAST DUST was an experience that I would recommend. Having said that, a friend I recommended it to fell asleep.

But I didn't. Although in some ways, I might as well have. I certainly wasn't concentrating 100% on what was happening on stage all of the time. Or even half the time. Instead each new segment on stage would prompt me only to start daydreaming again just on a new theme. Sometimes it would be inspired by the thumping rhythms and monotone chants that accompanied each segment ("What music would I use to score a film of my life?"); other times by the careful choreography performed by the women on stage, pulsating and throbbing as they were to the beat of life and the equally-pulsating thump of the music ("Can uniformity and convention be so strikingly alluring and yet nightmarish at the same time?"); and still other times by the cartoon world of primary colour and coded costumes being doled out before my eyes ("Hey, where did I keep all those old Archie comic books I used to read?") ... so, why you may ask, would I still say that I enjoyed the UNDER THE LAST DUST experience?

Because it presented image after image of "Wow!" that, to me, offered little conherent meaning as such and in fact, could not sustain my interest beyond the first few seconds of its presentation on stage, but would constantly inspire me to think, to dream and to explore my own imagination as much as the artists' - both are valid.

>>'Watching UNDER THE LAST DUST was an experience that I would recommend. Having said that, a friend I recommended it to fell asleep.'

And, in my humble opinion, that is what UNDER THE LAST DUST is about. To watch it and seek meaning is missing the point. It is what you yourself choose to make of it that counts.

In fact, the only times that I found the show lacking was precisely when coherent plot was being developed as these appeared contrived and hackneyed. For example, the exchange between mother and daughter - one constantly packing to go and then returning, to the euphoria of the other - was interesting for all of about oh, one second before becoming immensely tired and mundane but with the darkly comedic scene of the mother choking on the rice being forcefed in anger to her by her daughter, the segment took on a surreal twist and fell lightly into freefall and this is what gave it its magic. Because you could try to construe meaning from it in relation to the plot or you could enjoy it for its black humour, be repulsed by its grossness or just think about whether or not you prefer rice or noodles with roast duck.

With women throwing paint on plastic sheets Jackson Pollack-style, knocking on doors expectantly but always in vain and fighting with one another in contextless, incoherent, dialogue-free landscapes, UNDER THE LAST DUST was a visual spectacular - special kudos to Dorothy Png's lighting design - that had nothing to do with feminism, despite having been devised and performed by 17 female artists, or womanism, or whatever social theorists are calling it these days but, as with many abstract paintings, was simply about the most human of all traits: Imagination (as opposed to director Jean's Ng's suggestion of erm, "sleeping, eating and shitting"). And a freedom to indulge in one's own imagination.

Something, arguably, that women have (had?) been denied from doing or perhaps, is precisely the only recourse women have (had?) in a world where they cannot do but can only dream.

(But that would be to start off on a feminist rhetoric that I would rather sidestep and I end off this review instead with a Boyzone lyric: "If you can't choose what to be, you can choose what to dream")...