>BRAINSTORM by The Necessary Stage

>reviewed by kenneth kwok

>date: 28 aug 1999
>time: 8pm
>venue: the singapore arts museum
>rating: ****

>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 sleeping society awakes

All concept plays have the potential to buckle and suffocate under the weight of the very concept that structures them. The Necessary Stage's BRAINSTORM not only avoids that trap but rises to the challenge of incorporating, responding and reacting to its concept - in this case its location, the Singapore Arts Museum, and being a platform for fifteen disparate multi-disciplinary pieces - to generate an artwork that is, instead, greater than the sum of its parts. Although each of the performances stood alone and only loosely shared the commom thread of psychological themes, together, they created a a total theatrical landscape within the Museum that constantly provoked and inspired. Whether it was the cinematic dance piece "Left Right, Left Right" or the abstract multi-media installation "have a pleasant show we pay to dream in a sleeping society", each performance was slickly produced and beautifully presented; it bodes well for the future of Singapore's arts scene, showcasing as these pieces all did, the high quality of work that can be produced by our young artists when they are given the free reign to experiment and create.

One of the strongest pieces was Chong Tze Chien's "Lift My Mind". Although at times the acting seemed a little unsure, the strong script - revolving around the lives of a lift operator, the drag queen he falls in love with, and his cabaret-club owning boss - and firm direction validate, without a doubt, the excitement and hype over Chong after his debut production earlier this year, "Pan-Island Expressway". The effortless skill with which Chong toyed with hard definitions of identity (man and woman; Singaporean and Cosmopolitan; the true face and the false) against the backdrop of a beautifully devised soundtrack rivalling "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of ther Desert" - tugging at our heart-strings ever so softly and gently the whole time - was matched only be his inventive use of the cargo lift within which the play was set to literally bring the audience to the different levels of his story.

>>'Kudos to The Necessary Stage for creating this platform for our young talents to explore and express themselves.'

Another winner was Haresh Sharma and Jeff Chen's "untitled man number one". Although monologues of this nature have the tendency to develove into mindless rants and raves against systems and institutions, full of shock value and little else, "untitled man" proved, in turn, poignant, thought-provoking and outrageously hilarious; this, without sacrificing any of the abstract complexity that is a mainstay of the genre. Much credit must be given to actor Darren Chiam who rocked and rolled his way into the audience's hearts with a performance of great strength, (in)/dignity and power, dealing equally well, as he did, with both midsection, bawdy humour and incisive social and political commentary - or is there no difference between the two?

Strong acting performances also shone in the musical (of sorts) "A Thing InThe Pool"; Claire Jaffray had the bimbo role down pat and Leon Tan, as the obsessive-compulsive young man who doesn't allow anyone to swim as there is "A Thing In The Pool", acquitted himself with equal skill, the two coming together beautifully on stage to hilarious effect, whether as coy, brazen, or, indeed, all-singing, all-dancing lovers. Natalie Hennedige's script, laced as it was with sharp doses of black humour and colourful surrealism, and perfectly exemplifying in many ways the short play genre, also impressed, as did the tight direction by Hennedige and Serena Ho.

Kudos to The Necessary Stage for creating this platform for our young talents to explore and express themselves. It is always a pleasure to see cast and crew themselves enjoying the production they are putting on for the audience and this was most evident in tonight's production. One could see quite clearly that all the artists were drawing fromvery personal parts of themselves to present these works.

Have a pleasant show? D-uh. A bit of a no-brainer, that!