>42@WATERLOO by ACTION Theatre

>reviewed by daniel teo

>date: 5 nov 1999
>time: 7:30pm
>venue: 42 waterloo street
>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.


When Action theatre declared its bold plans for a festive of plays that would run 42 days at their new grounds, it was a breath of fresh air into an industry shackled by the norm of local plays running ridiculous durations of 2 or 3 days. The idea of a whole month of continuous productions with its permutation of performance and talents was simply mind-boggling in its possibilities.

So when the night began, it was with high expectations and wistful hopes that the night would be a smashing success. With Sheikh Haikal's FAT-BUSTED as the first piece, it set the tone for the whole night - a relaxed casualness of watching your friends do their thing in your own backyard. The seductive ambience of the new Action theatre building, coupled with the cool evening breeze, made you lean back and enjoy the show. Careful neglected looking walls with rustic charm, sporadic pots of water lilies, stone pebbles floors juxtaposed with the wood laden stages - you actually start to imagine that you are in Bali rather Waterloo. That is until the blasted rickshaw comes along and shatters it all with "Barbie Girl" screaming from its surround sound speakers….

Sheikh Haikal poked fun at his own robust physique with jokes of the trials of being fat. Maybe it was because the audience wasn't sufficiently warmed up or that some of his jokes fell flat (as literal as his actual fall) - it did made me worry for a minute sitting in the crowd wondering if it was a bad omen. GAY, MARRIED OR DEAD cranked up the laugh meter with its modern update of the Cinderella story - all eligible men are all either married, dead or (you guessed it) queens rather than good ol' princes. What is a modern new age girl to do? Three good friends flee to Bintan to leave their glass slippers in a hope that a true prince will come along. Deborah Png as Wei was excellent as a fag hag not by choice, bemoaning that guys who flock to her only want to hide under her maternal skirt. Using physical comedy with such precision, she stole the show with her nifty dance steps and comedic timing.

When she meets her childhood friend, Emil, angst resurfaces like a bad rash. She meets a guy she fancies but alas, he is actually more interested in Emil. A double whammy as she reveals that she had a crush on Emil since young but gave up when she realised he was more interested in playing house than playing doctor with her. Equally believable doing comedy as well as the tragic spurned heroine, Deborah, as Wei was seamless in weaving in and out of her roles.

>>'For one night the unthinkable became reality for many young talents in need of a big break'

MR BBC carried on the comedic torch with a one-man show on anything from the realism of Army advertisements to boyfriends buying Snoopy Toys for their girlfriends. His gamut of jokes was wide and thus ensured that the jokes were relevant to the audience at least one point of his show. Using jokes with strong local flavours, they were sure winners as it was plucked right out of the audience's daily lives. It was hard not to see Linus Lim's charm when he proclaimed that unlike the runaway best seller "Man are from Mars, women are from Venus", the only version he had experienced is "Man are from Mars and women are from Geylang". Much like Seinfield satires on the most trivial aspects of our lives, Linus' humour was from the ordinary, the everyday and even the banal. With a touch of neurosis and a dash of irrelevance, he even made the Body Shop funny.

The night of laughs was given an icing on the cake by VIVA VIAGRA!, the new play from Ovidia Yu on Viagra. Using a dramatic way of pondering the social and medical effects of Viagra, it could have been a solemn and dead boring medical documentary. To Ovidia's credit, the play was hilarious and at the same time incisively sharp in delivering the facts. Medical miracle for the impotent or a dangerous sex drug? The play probes not only why is Viagra such a muddle of confusion for many but also why are some of us so blind to see that sex need not be a dirty romp in the bushes. Norlina Mohamed as Berenice stridently rejects Viagra as simply THE sex drug for old men who still want to "do it". Loke Loo Pin as Berenice's mother and Godfrey Yeo as the mother's boyfriend, play an older version of Romeo and Juliet torn apart by Godfrey's inability to perform. Finally Gerald Chew as Dan is the rational doctor giving us the facts in these comedy of errors.

Strong performances from the entire cast made VIVA VIAGRA! a joy to watch. Loke Loo Pin was outstanding as a mother with more guts and style than her daughter ever has. There was no doubt that she was a class act when she screamed "That's why I shaved my armpits!" when questioned by her daughter why she was wearing such a low-cut dress. Bette Milder herself would be proud if she saw how she delivered killer lines with her deadpanned look of resignation. Sandy Phillips as Miss V was just as lethal in her blue velvet dress and sexy moves. Never a dull moment when she was on stage, her risqué jokes flew fast and furious. Using contrast by juxtaposing the conservative Berenice with sex goddess Miss V, it was an effective tool in telling the audience that sex is also a part of love. Nothing filthy and nothing shameful, sex is beautiful for people in love and a miracle for those in love but cannot have it.

Maybe some of the members in the audience felt disappointed by the amateur performances in NIGHT OF THE UNKNOWN- X-Files disappearance of the audience started after VIVA VIAGRA! Admittedly some of the performances were indeed below par and in need of help but that is missing the entire point of the night. 42@Waterloo is a success because it allow unknowns with potential to attempt what was once deemed impossible, what was once considered unthinkable. A place to hone their skills before venturing into the big bad world of theatre and being torn into pieces by wicked reviewers (yes that includes the one writing this piece), 42@Waterloo is an incubator for those young seedlings to grow. Some might not grow at all, some might not bear fruits but some would indeed blossom into a kaleidoscopic shower of flowers. What is imperative is that these young performers must have a safe haven to grow in strength first. Joni Tham, Ang Ni Nee and Juwanda all held promise at that night and with much more experience in events like these it is not unthinkable in wishing for the stars.

This is precisely why even though the night might have been bumpy it is a success nevertheless. For one night the unthinkable became reality for many young talents in need of a big break - Hey hey I saved the world today.