>let me fly by faithworks

>reviewed by james koh

>date: 2 feb 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: the drama centre
>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.

>>>>>A LIFT OFF...

Community theatre has always had such dirty connotations - lowbrow and simplistic, its need to appeal to the lowest-common denominator is seen by bourgeois purists as stripping it of any artistic merit.

LET ME FLY could be considered community theatre. Yet its simple story was not simplistically told; neither was it totally bereft of any artistic merit; and if the audience appeared to enjoy themselves during the night I attended, was it necessarily bad theatre?

Its story was straightforward - Xu Fei, a boy from a family background so poor that he lives in a pig sty with his sister, is a gifted storyteller. He grows up and is torn between becoming an actor and following the Singapore dream of pursuing a business degree. Throw in a sister who desires to rise above their lowly position in society, a mother who works for the class-conscious Towkay Neo and Xu Fei's love interest in Towkay Neo's daughter, and this soon becomes a full-fledged Taiwanese serial.

But its community roots were unabashedly celebrated by the social issues that were revealed in the story - the economic determinism that governs the Singaporean way of life and how it affects the choices we make; the often unmentioned class lines that separate Singaporeans; the place of the arts in our society; the narratives of our culture in the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we don't tell ourselves, and the stories we need to tell ourselves.

>>'LET ME FLY takes a winged step in the right direction for community theatre'

What made LET ME FLY interesting theatre was its raw and unpolished quality - despite the contrived melodrama at times and the heavy didacticism at other times, there was a note of heartfelt sincerity at the core of its story. This was helped by the largely unprofessional cast - not to say that the acting was bad, instead it came across as being genuine and honest. Of mentionable note was Josephine Tan as the fiery sister, and Ian Loy was highly effective as the storyteller, Xu Fei, with his brand of physical acting.

(A bit of digression - the children acting in LET ME FLY, like most untrained child actors, were highly self-conscious. This was not a problem during certain parts of the performance and they did manage to up the "aww-shucks" factor. Yet moments of high tension were diluted by this very factor, for example, when the mother was presented with a rod by Towkay Neo to beat her own children, the comical prancing of these child actors made the scene humorous rather than dramatic, which was presumably how it was intended to be.)

There were nice directorial touches throughout the performance (the motif of Xu Fei as the rickshaw driver was particularly effective), but some of these touches did cross the thin line between sincerity and corniness. At the same time, pacing could have been much improved as some scenes were extraneous and did nothing to add to the characters.

Was this the best that community theatre had to offer? Well, though LET ME FLY can't be compared to the viscerally powerful performance that was 'Lian Can Cook' by Drama Box (which was performed at the public spaces of the heartlands of Singapore), LET ME FLY takes a winged step in the right direction for community theatre.