>christmas and the gargoyle who wouldn't say thank you by the srt's little company

>reviewed by fong liling

>date: 9 nov 2002
>time: 12pm
>venue: dbs arts centre
>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.


"Chestnuts roastin' on an open fire… "

Well… I don't really know the rest of the words. It is a wee bit early for this but blame it on CHRISTMAS AND THE GARGOYLE WHO WOULDN'T SAY THANK YOU. It got me deeper into the Christmas mood even though my friends were already complaining about my "jingle bells" ringing too early.

Little Timmy (Debra Stych) and his friends live in the same neighbourhood as grumpy, old man Mr Magruder whom they call The Gargoyle (Chua Enlai), simply because he looks like one. They like to play "Battlefield" on his property, much to their elderly neighbour's immense dislike. Every time he sees them having fun he emerges from his stone-cold concrete door and growls at them with utter disapproval. Despite the cold shoulder Mr Magruder gives Timmy and his grandmother (Alemay Fernandez) when they present him with new roses as compensation for his cut rose bushes, she reminds her grandson to give the bitter man a Christmas present. Though reluctant, Timmy accedes to his grandmother's request anyway, leaving a hand picked, self-decorated Christmas tree at Mr Magruder's doorstep. Though Timmy never receives a word of thanks from his neighbour, his small act of kindness changes the aged man's life …

Although most of the audience belonged to the target age group, their parents definitely enjoyed the play as much as their children did, if not more. The mom sitting beside me was happily humming to the Christmas carols the cast belted out while her daughter clinged onto a "Bananas In Pajamas" soft toy, silently focusing on what was onstage. My friend and I seemed to be the only ones belonging in neither age group; nevertheless, we were intrigued from beginning to end.

>>'It certainly entertained and got the audience asking for more'

The production boasts a strong and energetic cast and a colourful and creative set which are fundamental in plays aimed at children, as well as brilliant song and dance routines. Traditional Christmas carols were sung by the four-member cast mostly acapella, sometimes with the company of the guitar or piano, both played by Daren Tan (who played Timmy's father). The actors also took on rapping a Christmas carol, which heightened the lively atmosphere.

Timmy and his friends convey the story through a sort of a story-telling session. The message is easy enough for the younger ones to follow: Spread love even to people who are mean, maybe they are that way because they think no one loves them. What's more, you never know what difference you might make to their lives. It does not only apply to children though; I mean, how many grown-ups actually possess the magnanimity to do that? CHRISTMAS AND THE GARGOYLE WHO WOULDN'T SAY THANK YOU also teaches its audience to take responsibility for their own actions, definitely something every parent would want their child to do.

An accessible plot, universal themes and a high production quality (multi-purpose props and falling snow, for example) were complemented by fine acting. Debra Stych did a splendid job as Timmy, so good that throughout the show, my friend had the impression that she was indeed male, until I revealed the truth. Stych's portrayal of a boy considerably younger than herself was, by no means, based on her simply acting cute or anything like that. She presented all the elements of a child - playful, loud, and boisterous - realistically. In fact, all four actors were really believable as children. And like all kids in a group, there is always one person who is the object of their amusement, in this case, Timmy's cousin. The poor boy is always bullied and forced to act as The Gargoyle as they narrate and role-play the story.

The play lasts about an hour, just about the right length to engage the children fully. Even the littlest tots in the house gave the performance their full concentration, though there were indeed a couple of them who got fidgety by the time the curtain was about to close. Nonetheless, the production clearly achieved its aims: it certainly entertained and got the audience (me, at least) asking for more.