>prospero's children by the srt's little company
>reviewed by kenneth kwok
I wasn't going to review it. I didn't have to review it. But after walking out of the theatre having been utterly spellbound for the last 90 minutes, I thought it would be churlish not to.
I had decided to bring my 14 year-old nephew to PROSPERO'S CHILDREN because he was back from Hong Kong on holiday and he had been studying 'Macbeth' there. I was a little hesitant about the show at first because it said "a play for everyone over the age of 7" which immediately made me think of board games where they put "for ages 3 and up" when really, they should say "for aged 3 and anyone who leads a truly sad and tragic life and has no friends or anything better to do". The picture of what looks like paper dolls on a beach and a little scuba-diver swimming across the sea which was on the poster did not help either.
But I had also been told that early audiences had said it was anything but twee and cutesy. In fact, they recommended that the show be marketed at Lower Secondary school pupils rather than those in primary school.
And they were right. My nephew enjoyed the show tremendously, not only in the sense of being entertained by the amount of play going on onstage, but also in terms of being presented with a story rich in ideas. While I do feel that, indeed, primary school children may find some parts of the play hard-going (and the little tykes walking up and down the aisle during the show were testimony to this) and Upper Secondary school students may find the work a little too "uncool", it is pitch-perfect for Lower Secondary students, and for adults who can look beyond the need for theatre to be all despair and melancholy, all bad words and bad lighting just to be hip and alternative.
This was a version of 'The Tempest' that was full of light and sparkle. It begins with the cast of six actors on a stage beautifully-designed as a beach. You hear waves in the background. The cast is singing. A beach ball is brought out. At one point, Christian J. Lee strums a tune on a guitar...
>>'"The Tempest" has always been one of my favourite Shakespeare
plays and I have seen four productions of it - this one which did not
aim so high flew the furthest.
I was especially intrigued, for example, by how director Guy Holland played with the motif of the Three Sisters and re-imagined Caliban and Ariel as Prospero's daughters-of-sort (by casting both roles as women) - so obvious an idea and here so skilfully handled. Together with sister Miranda, they are a triumvirate as complex and compelling as King Lear's triad of daughters or Cinderella's little family triangle that she forms with her two evil sisters. Prospero, the great God-like figure, here just a man, essentially just a father, is the centre of this family drama and all the rivalry, generation rifts and struggles for authority and independence that go with it.
But instead, I will talk about the glory that is Chua Enlai. In a cast (including an a-little-bit-too-cutesy Adelina Ong as Miranda, a transformed and nearly unrecognisable Christian J Lee as Prospero and a erm, serene Serene Chen), that excelled, Enlai was particularly outstanding. Always a good actor who first impressed me in 'Lovepuke', he continued to do strong work in a variety of other plays, including 'Shopping and F***ing' and 'William Shakespeare's R+J'; here, he takes on two roles as Stefano and Antonio and is wildly different and good in both, an especially impressive feat since neither are at all similar to the outrageous, effeminate roles he was starting to get typecast in. Another highlight was Karen Tan who, again, has yet to disappoint, at least, in all the work I've seen her in. She played Caliban with heart and spirit and never lost her sense of character; you believed that she felt her role in a real part of herself and it wasn't just a shell that she had put on. Keagan Kang as Ferdinand was another great success. The juvenile romantic lead can be a role that's dull as dishwater but Keagan gave it a zesty swish and swirl; he has smoothed away the rough edges of earlier performances and now has a presence, confidence and timing onstage that is a pleasure to watch. That the play is blessed with such fine actors is the reason that even those who find the characterisation in the script a little too pat and neat will be drawn into the characters' stories.
Does it seem like I absolutely loved PROSPERO'S CHILDREN? If so, then, well, that's probably because I did. My only gripes? That not enough adults will have seen it, and that Adelina is a good actress but she really can't play a 14 year-old anymore. Even my nephew said that she acted like she was six but looked twenty and had lines that made her sound like she was a wise thirty year-old. He also feels that it was very confusing having Enlai play two parts.
So sort it out, Mr Holland! - or you'll be sent out to chop wood!
Little Company is an offshoot of The Singapore Repertory Theatre and targets
2 - 12 year olds. The company was formed in 2001. PROSPERO'S CHILDREN
was produced by the company together with Quicksilver Theatre from the