>stop kiss by livid room productions

>reviewed by james koh

>date: 21 mar 2002
>time: 8:30pm
>venue: toy factory theatrette
>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.


After the miraculous ‘Postcard from Persephone’, STOP KISS is the sophomore effort by Livid Room
Productions, Singapore’s first feminist theatre company.

Blurring the boundaries between sexuality and friendship, STOP KISS is the story of two friends who slowly grow attracted to each other, until a brutal attack ends this burgeoning relationship. The catch? These two friends, Callie and Sara, are both women - and the attack is motivated by homophobia. Yet it has to be said that the play is less about lesbianism per se, and more about how distinctions between friends and lovers are not as clear cut as we would think and like them to be.

>>'It took Livid Room Productions about two years after their first play to present their second. Let’s hope
that the third time around, we don’t have to wait that long.'

Written by the American Diana Son, STOP KISS is honest and heartfelt in its portrayal of the sexual tension that perhaps informs all friendships - after all what is a lover if not a best friend one is sexually attracted to? Yet perhaps because it is set in New York, and together with the relative wide range of accents put on by the actors, the play while being highly competent a production, did not manage to emotionally engage with the audience.

I am not insisting that all plays must be translated into a local context to meet the needs of a local audience – but in this case, the specificity of homophobia would have reverberated with greater urgency and impact if it had been less culturally alienating and did not, to a certain extent, perpetuate the myth that homosexuality is only a Western phenomenon. (And this is one of the reasons why the relatively context-less English version of ‘Beautiful Thing’ didn’t really work while the localised Mandarin version was a much more powerful production.)

Together with the highly capable supporting cast of Beatrice Chia, Chua Enlai and Kevin Murphy, both the reliable Adelina Ong as the impulsive Callie and Esther Yap as the more focussed Sara, were wonderful to watch. But they did lack a palpable chemistry between them, a chemistry that would have given a sense of inevitability and exigency to their attempted kiss at the end of the play, making the resulting attack on them more vicious and uncalled for.

Meanwhile, the converging storyline - whereby what happens before and after the attack is revealed before the actual attack in itself - could have been better paced, so as to highlight the tension between the innocent development of the relationship and the traumatic aftermath of the attack.

STOP KISS is a refreshing voice amidst the male dominated gay plays that have pervaded the Singapore theatre space. It took Livid Room Productions about two years after their first play to present their second. Let’s hope
that the third time around, we don’t have to wait that long.