>DIRTY LAUNDRY by NTU's Speechwork Productions

>reviewed by james koH

>date: 14 aug 1999
>time: 8pm
>venue: the alliance francaise
>rating: 1/2 star

>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.


Is it possible? Can it be so? As you sit watching DIRTY LAUNDRY, a question keeps running through your head: can it be possible that this sub-standard performance is by one of the two premiere universities in Singapore? Watching this play, you feel like you are stuck in secondary school drama hell, and you have to keep shaking your head to tell you that this is by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and that these undergraduate performers are supposed to be the cream of the Singapore Education System.

DIRTY LAUNDRY is locally set and tells the story of a 28 year-old who dreams of becoming a rock star, but his attempts at fame are thwarted when he is exposed as a bed-wetter by a tabloid newspaper. Labeled as the 'Super Urinator', the play depicts his attempts to come to terms with his bed-wetting and to lead a more fulfilling life. The play (by Theresa Tan) deals, or tries to anyway, with many themes, including the exploitative nature of the media and the effects of over-parenting in Singapore. It also explores, to a certain extent, the tendency of human beings to alienate people who are different, and the sexual politics engendered by a materialistic society.

This could have been a quirky, funny and intelligent play, but it is not to be, as these themes are treated by the playwright in a shallow and superficial manner. The bland script renders the attempts by the playwright to satirise the media totally ineffectual. Moreover, the highly unbelievable characters and the constant use of cliches and stereotypes make this comedy insipid and vapid. In fact, not only are the jokes in the play immature and juvenile, they are not even funny. The sexual repartee between the characters drew weak laughter from the crowd, but a couple of one-liners cannot hold a play together.

>>'A question keeps running through your head: can it be possible that this sub-standard performance is by one of the two premiere universities in Singapore?'

Despite the limitations of the script, one expected from this group of amateur actors a spirited enthusiasm that would have energised the wooden script. Again, this was not to be. Amateurs at least have potential - and this cannot be said of the terrible acting that was on stage tonight. Most of the actors were highly unnatural with the irritating tendency to overact and to accentuate every other word that they speak. This was especially so in the case of Alvin Tan as the boorish Howard - the irony being that in the play, he is a newscaster who got his job because of his looks and one suspects that this is also the reason why Alvin Tan was cast. The unnatural acting was also highlighted by the bad make-up applied to the actors, making them look like Gothic creatures and turning the whole play into an entire farce.

There were some competent actors - competent in the sense that they could at least speak naturally. This was the case for Adrian Wong as the belligerent father and Ng Hui as the ambitious newscaster. The leads were much better, though Geraldine Whang as the sweet natured reporter performed better than Danny Goh who acted as the gawkish 28 year old bed-wetter. The latter had a tendency to over-emphasise certain words and his acting sometimes bordered on hysterical melodrama.

The direction was lack-lustre and highly unimaginative, what with the constant scene changes which dragged the play and made it limp aimlessly along. Was it really necessary to shift a bed for a one minute scene and then shift it back again to continue with the former setting? If it was any indication of boredom many people were using their illuminated watches to check the time during the scene changes.

But what is most worrying is not the low standard which NTU's theatre group is at, but that for the most part of the audience, this was their annual foray into theatre, and that they seemed to think this was theatre at its best. If this is so, then there is indeed much to be concerned about.