About Us






Kenneth Kwok






The Esplanade Theatre Studio



They Got Them, Babe

A wise woman once sang that when love came, it would come with rockets, bells and poetry. While this may well be true, over time, the fireworks and rockets eventually fizzle out and love gradually dissolves into everyday life. That doesn't mean it's anything less special. It's love, for goodness' sake. The big L. But it can become such a natural part of your life that you hardly notice it, although you can always feel it.

That power of love (and I will stop it now with the references to cheesy love songs) was captured beautifully and sensitively in Duets which presented the everyday love of a couple (creators Kaylene Tan and Paul Rae) in a series of vignettes set against recorded songs and live music.

Each vignette was a thing of little beauty - uncluttered and simple and usually garnished with an interesting visual trick. In an early scene, for example, with the entire venue in darkness, Tan and Rae used laser pointers to indicate where objects such as shoes, chairs etc. were placed in their apartment while they described the memories associated with each. Later there was a long period of silence when Tan walked around eating an apple while Rae brought furniture and furnishings into the space to literally create the set of that apartment onstage. These were interesting enough for the audience to enjoy for their own sake thanks to the confidence and crispness of the actors' delivery but they also echoed the theme in their own way: love can sometimes be so much a part of our mundane and ordinary lives that it need not be something seen or something spoken about; it is simply lived.

It was to the actors' credit, then, that in the little disagreements over who should cook dinner and the conversations about buying insurance and about a stranger one of them meets in a park, the love the couple shared still came across so clearly without any explicit declarations in words. Instead it was in the way they interacted onstage, sometimes joining hands to support one another, at other times just in the ease they had with each other.

It was also to their credit that these random musings were actually strangely engaging in themselves. In some vignettes, there was a poetry to the lines that allowed the text to stand on its own but in others, there simply wasn't very much for the actors to work with. And yet, they somehow managed to bring it to life. Rae, in particular, slipped into his character as if he had just wandered into his own living room. When he told an anecdote about a woman he had met who wanted to lovingly chew on the feet of his baby, his delivery was so natural and he seemed to be taking such unadulterated delight in the situation that it made you wonder if he was simply ad-libbing the whole thing.

It was ultimately besides the point, though, whether the script and the characters were facets of Tan and Rae themselves. What matters was that these characters were facets of us in the audience. And for me, the power of this production was in its sincerity in trying to capture in little snapshots the truth of how love - so ordinary, so beautiful, so real - can exist

My only quibble was with the music. Not Zai Kuning's soundscape which helped to create the atmosphere for each vignette perfectly, but the songs themselves which, while playful and fun, were not particularly memorable or poignant, at least to my untrained ear, and yet were oddly supposed to be the basis of the production. In fact, the programme, perhaps ironically, even described them as "some of pop's most enduring duets". I'm not sure how many people have heard of Steak For Chicken by The Moldy Peaches or It's Good To Be On The Road Back Home Again by Cornershop, though. Where were Islands In The Stream and Endless Love?

Then again, maybe that was the point. Perhaps the songs that truly endure are not necessarily the ones standing proud at the #1 spot of the Billboard charts with rockets, bells and poetry.

It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for.

"Love can sometimes be so much a part of our mundane and ordinary lives that it need not be something seen or something spoken about; it is simply lived"


Text: Paul Rae and Kaylene Tan

Performers: Paul Rae and Kaylene Tan

Sound: Zai Kuning

Lights: Ken Ikeda

Stage Manager: Melanie Tan

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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.