>drumming dreams by in source theatre

>reviewed by sherrie lee

>date: 29 nov 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: the guinness theatre, 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.


In Source Theatre's inaugural production was a bumpy excursion through philosophical texts on dreams. Running on drum beats and uninspiring footwork, DRUMMING DREAMS swung between child's play and an obscure intensity. While it was mostly raw and incoherent, it was nonetheless a worthy first attempt at experimenting with texts, music and physical theatre.

A mirror ball hung from the ceiling, reflecting light beamed from the ground. Low Yuen Wei, director and lead drummer (of a large Chinese drum), sat in a corner, draped in white and overcome with fervour in her chanting-singing of dialect songs. The meditative mood was interrupted by two characters, Chan Yi Wen in a red dress and Melissa Wong in a red and black frock, prancing around, taking turns to articulate (sometimes in awkward accents) the various texts on dream. Then hops in a nymph-like character, Alison Wong, echoing texts, giggling and playing on drums.

And so the opening scene locked the characters in their place. Yuen Wei, sombre in white, took on each new text with a grave intensity. On the other hand, Yi Wen and Melissa had fun with the stories and philosophical propositions, playing games with each other with Alison coming in to add to the frivolity.

>>'It made some headway in exploring the human psyche but without a strong direction, it was in the end, unsatisfying'

Playing games, chasing each other around the theatre and the unavoidable inclusion of drumming, however, did not shed any more light on the reflections on dreams than did the unintentional campy rendition of the texts. A real pity since there were several probing statements like how, if prayers are really affirmations, then our desires, what we believe will happen, are really prayers. Even the simple notion of struggling in pursuing one's dreams because of practical concerns, was left as an over-performed dialogue.

Text-wise, it was interesting to have Yuen Wei's dialect songs pitted against Western views on dreams, but alas, the dialect songs were not translated, and there was no clear direction of where the mix of texts was going.

Taking words, phrases and throwing them back to the audience while running around in circles with the occasional drumming became the main form of presentation, excluding an incredulous rap about Zhuang Zhou and Kong Zi's different types of dreams and other dream-speak with the mirror ball fulfilling its original potential.

DRUMMING DREAMS displayed less physical theatre than it seemed to promise. Inspired by the philosophical musings of Paulo Coelho and James Redfield, it made some headway in exploring the human psyche but without a strong direction, it was in the end, unsatisfying.

But In Source Theatre's desire to use drumming, movement and sound to make their point is a good start. It is after all their dream. Their hearts are alive. Keep listening to what they have to say.