>BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE by MediaCorp Studios

>reviewed by daniel teo

>date: 1 feb 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: the world trade centre auditorium
>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.


Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl panics and flees. Boy fights for their love. Sounds familiar enough? It's the same sob story from countless sappy movies and television dramas except for that slight twist - boy is blind.

But don't hold your breath - that's the only surprise you going to get.

From limp lines that packed no punch to the uninspired setting, the play was stuck in a wasteland of vapidity. With award-winning director Clifton Ko, one expected not avant garde innovation but rather warm, touchy dramas speaking of universal emotions and stories pulsating with humanity. Fans who have watched the stage and film version of 'I Have A Date With Spring' can testify to Ko's eye for tragic stories that can make the most cynical of us weep. Weep I certainly did - for even the fine performances from the actors couldn't save the insipid play from sinking.

>>'The play was stuck in a wasteland of vapidity'

Stuck in the drab setup of Don's apartment, the night weighed heavily on the repartee between the two leads. While there were moments of sparkling witticisms, the rest of the dialogue was flat and unable to salvage the already tired permutations the play had exhausted. Themes were left unexplored and relationships left undeveloped - so much more could have been done with the dynamics of the three principal actors. As a physical manifestation, the set lacked imagination and only served to heighten the sense of tedium with its lackluster setup.

The biggest surprise of the night was Tay Ping Hui's wonderful turn as Don, making many female audience swoon with his wounded dog grins. With a commanding stage presence and crisp diction, he gave a commendable performance that spoke of a sensitivity untapped by television.

As the frothy foil to Tay's Forest Gump earnestness, Perry displayed endless reserves of energy as she shuttled round the stage. As the woman-child fearful of commitment yet wistful for love, she captured the essence of the dichotomy incisively. Xiang Yun as the matriarch commanded attention as soon as she made her first entrance. Drawing from her wealth of acting experience, she maneuvered the rapid character shift from an overbearing tyrant to the lonely mother with finesse.

In the end it was a pity. Powerful cast, talented director but a product representative of neither. The ending scene with Don carrying Jill turning merry-go-rounds under soft light is perhaps the best metaphor for the night gone wrong - vacuous, dated and unbelievably corny.

The butterflies are indeed free but what use is that in a land so barren?