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What Big Bombs You Have!!!


The Necessary Stage


Deanne Tan






The Esplanade Theatre Studio



Be Scared or Be Square

In this expressionistic evocation of the culture of fear that has enwrapped society since September 11th, Haresh Sharma retells the story of Little Riding Hood in a cauldron of latent terror and violence. Echoes of the recent Huang Na tragedy and a madcap sideplay about a terrorist plot on the MRT simmer in the mix. This is all narrated by an alternately Puck- and Prospero-like character (Gene Sha Rudyn) who introduces and articulates the messages of the play.

Director Natalie Hennedige's aim is to wake people up, to explore "surrealism, absurdity and violence". Her innovative direction offers a refreshing perspective on the consciousness of fear. A foreboding nightmare-scape is created with electronic music, bold lighting, and a stark set of surrealist structures and ambiguous vanishing points. The opening scene is powerfully thematic, with a sprite-like Gene Sha Rudyn performing frenzied choreography and issuing mock instructions to the audience on what to do in case of an emergency or bomb threat. He asks menacingly "do you feel safe?" before being machine gunned.

The minimal storytelling creates a sense of dislocation, drawing the audience into the nightmarish world. Dialogue is terse, and characters are drawn in extremes. Emotions - affection, aggression, concern, frustration - are delivered in controlled doses even at the climax, where we are blitzed with a concentrated outpouring of fear. Tensions rise with each interaction, and the environment grows more volatile as characters get increasingly strung out.

The themes of personal terror and isolation are effectively explored in the Little Red Riding Hood story. Girl exists in a dysfunctional, loveless family comprising an aloof mother who turns her affection on and off with a flick of a switch, an abusive "Uncle" father figure, and a brother whose concern is overshadowed by his bomb-building projects.

Chermaine Ang delivers a squirmingly good performance as the bewildered, affection-starved Girl whose trusting obedience to her Uncle raises uncomfortable parallels with Huang Na's story. Hossan Leong gives a spine-tingling performance as a latently abusive Uncle who engages in the suspicious project of building a box for Girl to hide in. As we are drawn into the sad and terrible psychological life of the family, undercurrents of violence push nearer to the surface.

Unfortunately, the sideplay The Scarlet Terrorist ruins the entire dream-nightmare - though admittedly it introduces the theme of sexual violence through comic ribaldry and pseudo-sadomasochism. As an absurdist device, it lacks focus, wandering off the path and losing the central themes of fear and terrorism. More importantly, the characters fail to be more than lame sideshows. Alin Mosbit is irritating as secret agent Grandma, who pretends to be infirm while she orchestrates Singapore's defence against MRT bombings. Hossan Leong is flabbergastingly off the mark as a campy grandson who jives and pouts in a completely unnecessary role. Chua Enlai's secret agent disguised as a wolf is vain and lustful in the style of cheap cabaret, and the red-hooded Scarlet Terrorist fumbles with some kung fu moves because women kicking ass is so hip right now.

These over-the-top meanderings were distracting and sapped the audience's precious attention before they reached the climax of the play. Nonetheless, What Big Bombs You Have!!! was a bold and creative artistic venture, and it delivered a biting commentary on an immensely relevant social issue.

"Chermaine Ang delivers a squirmingly good performance as the bewildered, affection-starved Girl whose trusting obedience to her Uncle raises uncomfortable parallels with Huang Na's story"

More M1 Singapore Fringe Festival Performances
White Men with Weapons by Actor's Co-op

by Pip Utton Theatre Company

Errorism - Flowers of Evil by Zai Kuning and Li Xie

SCHOENBERG......Prismed by Shane Thio and Kuo Jing Hong

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Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.