>godeatgod by the necessary stage

>reviewed by musa fazal

>date: 1 aug 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: the necessary stage black box
>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.


godeatgod is a slick production, aesthetically appealing in a way which one would have thought The Necessary Stage was incapable of producing.

In one scene the thoughts of a dying man are projected onscreen. "Call me," he says. "Email me, SMS me". The combination of words and music in this scene is so well done, I thought I was watching a TV commercial, and half-expected the Starhub logo to appear. In another painfully beautiful scene, Natalie Hennedige has her hair washed by Ian Loy (who happens to be dressed throughout the play in a batik sarong). No doubt this is a moment of intimacy between two of the main "victims" in the play, but with the dim blue lighting and sound of running water in the distance, I could not help but feel momentarily transported to the lush surroundings of a Balinese health spa.

In spite of all this, and the appearance of Barbra Streisand in her 'Timeless Concert' on a TV screen in the far right corner of the movable stage, this is a serious play tackling a serious subject. God is on trial here.

>>'In spite of all this, and the appearance of Barbra Streisand in her "Timeless Concert" on a TV screen in the far right corner of the movable stage, this is a serious play tackling a serious subject. God is on trial here'

But not just the Gods of our religions. Our kitchen gods too. Our families, our lovers, our diva celebrities and our politicians - all the people and things we worship - all are questioned. Hundreds of questions roll by throughout the performance on a screen in the corner of the stage. I caught one that said, "Do we trust the people in power more than the people we love?" Indeed. War images of men on the verge of being killed are also digitally manipulated onscreen so that their questioning eyes appear to be moving. By the end of the play, the characters are walking mechanically along rigid straight lines, with their arms outstretched ready to ask more questions, but God (also the man with AIDS) lies on the ground, dead.

The questions asked throughout the play are difficult ones - the kinds of questions we often think are too absurd or too blasphemous to ask. What if there is a Filipino maid with an advanced degree and a secret ambition to take over the world? What if there is more to the adoration that a younger brother has for his elder brother? What if the one you worship- your God - is dying? Tough questions but luckily enough, if they become too difficult to grapple with, too disturbing and too intimate, at least there's Barbra Streisand and bits of something on AXN to turn to for relief.

This play has a strong cast. Natalie Hennedige has an amazing presence and a certain gravity about her delivery, while Matthew Lyon is perfect for God. But Patricia Mok and Norleena Salim are of course the star attractions, worth every penny of the ticket price and more. Their deliciously acerbic repartee covers all subjects, correct and "corr-wrong", from Singlish to the tudung, to censorship and more. Leena also gets to sing a few songs, which are nice too.

The play ends oddly enough with what seems almost like an apology. The playwright, Haresh Sharma, appears and addresses the audience and says that he hopes we at least take home something from the play.

Perhaps he acknowledges in that moment that we have no reason to trust anything we have seen more than the barrage of questionable messages that the play tells us we have been force-fed. Perhaps this is the most intractable question - the Skeptic's dilemma: how do we attack the foundations of our beliefs (God Himself) and still manage to believe in anything?

We cannot fault the artiste for having asked the question. That's what good artistes do: ask questions. But we must depend on ourselves to work out answers we can believe in.