>W by Schism/ism

>reviewed by james koh

>date: 2 mar 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: the guinness 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.


Producer/Songwriter Brian Eno once said that 'being pretentious is the most important thing we can be.' He referred of course to songwriting, and he did have a valid point, a validity that can be extended to theatre. While pretension in experimental theatre and plays which incorporate multimedia are usually associated with tedious self-indulgence and ego-driven exhibitionism, one can also see it as a intensely creative and productive way of transgressing the ordinary and truly grasp the slippery, magical potential of theatre.

The theatre group Schism/ism would no doubt agree.

W, ostensibly a play that traces the life, art and legacy of Andy Warhol, deals mainly with the role of the media in this celebrity obsessed age, a time defined by the need and desire of many people to be famous. Through a series of inventive, inspired and thought provoking vignettes that developed these themes, difficult concepts and intellectual ideas were tackled by the talented cast of 3, with acute ferocity and ingenuity. And they managed adeptly to translate these ideas into bite-sized bits for the audience. So we had Socrates, together with a Confucius-like figure, arguing about the merits of structuralism, semiotics and the inherent conflict between the signifier and the signified. And we had a scene in which the actors cleverly deconstructed the process of acting itself.

>>'If there is anyone or anything that deserves their 15 minutes of fame, it is W'

Together with the well-paced direction and clever use of various forms of multimedia, the play was also uplifted by a very good cast consisting of Rodney Oliveiro, Indera Superstar and Netty Montenegro, who not only had charismatic energy and contagious enthusiasm, but a flair for being hilariously outrageous.

It has to be said that the intellectualism in W did get quite heavy-handed and facile at times, with too many ideas being argued, bandied about and ripped apart. But for a large part of the play, this intellectualism was balanced by a playful knowingness, a postmodernist mischievousness, in eschewing a linear plot and attempting to break rigid theatrical boundaries. This was a celebration of the word play in all its exuberant meanings, most notably in the idea of performtivity.

This was seen in the way they posed, pouted and pirouetted through the sounds of David Holmes and some drum and bass noddlings. (It has to be said that the edgy soundtrack, together with Air's 'Moon Safari' being played before and after the performance, filled the various scenes with contemporary intensity). But this playfulness was most obvious in the scene where for their 15 minutes of fame, the cast in highly stylised and quite original ways, depicted the lives of Warhol's friends, be it Valerie Solanis or Edie Sedgwick. Like the way Rodney Oliveiro in a campy manner portrayed Valerie Solanis, who eager for the few minutes of fame, used a tape recorder to speed her voice up so that she could say all that she wanted to.

And at times, the intellectualism was also matched by an emotional depth. Like the way as one character attempted to define the aura of a person, he poignantly painted the outline of his face projected on the television screen. Or the way at the end of the play, the legacy of what Andy Warhol had left behind was touching remembered.

If there is anyone or anything that deserves their 15 minutes of fame, it is W - and every pretentious minute of it.