Review: Theatre Idols Semi-finals
I’ve been a fan of the work Action Theatre productions for a while now, especially since Hitting (on) Women, so when I received the publicity for THEATREiDOLS again this year, I was naturally excited. After all, Hitting (on) Women by Ovidia Yu was born out of THEATREiDOLS, and I was hoping something for a similarly wonderful experience. Of course, it helps that the dramatised readings are free, hence, extremely friendly to my student pocket.
Pirate wanted to go for both nights, and I decided to humour her even though they were on weeknights, this being her virgin Singapore theatre experience. We had a great time there, and before you ask, the finalists are Numb by Christine Sim, and Catching Adam Cheng by Jacke. All the plays were directed by our dear Loretta Chen, and the event was MCed by Annabelle Francis, who, in my opinion, did a really bad job, and traumatised Pirate forever with her high socks and stilleto open shoes.
So… on to the reviews:
Official synposis: Jacke Chye’s Catching Adam Cheng is a hilarious and heartwarming play about four elderly women who decide to run away from their nursing home to catch Adam Cheng’s concert!
My take: It IS as hilarious as it sounds. The actors were wonderful, especially, and tried their best to turn a script which could be a little draggy sometimes into a fun ride. It is at once both introspective and funny, and heartwarming, with well-developed, lovable, but sometimes rather predictable characters. The main character, Siew Lin, felt too much some kind of Martha Stewart, too perfect and too noble, with not a weakness except her fatal brain tumour. The play itself was just too damn long, highly reminiscent of Harry’s long traipse through the woods in Deathly Hallows, or Frodo’s extra-long journey across Middle Earth.
Official synposis: Death At The Theatre by Sara Yang is a chilling and suspenseful play about 8 individuals whose lives become intertwined in a bizarre place where death is sought and desires are played out.
My Take: Two words – experimental drama. It was like watching a Edgar Allan Poe poem come to life on stage, and not in a good way. It was depressing for the most part, funny at some, and interesting half the time. Sara Yang, who is actually a film student, said she was not so much interested in producing good scripts, and her life-ambition was to become a concept artist. (Yeah, girl, I think you’ve achieved your first objective, not producing good scripts.) But I did like the concept of how the theatre was brought to life, involving the audience and the venue in a bizarre, disturbing way. Now all Sara has to do is find someone to write the script for her.
Official synposis: Christine Sim’s Numb tells a dark tale of love, passion and open secrets involving a physically numb surgeon, an emotional numb man, and their lovers.
My Take: Yeah, yeah, we get the references to the postsecret website, and all the angst about connecting with people online. But as a geek, I am finding it hard to believe you can get people’s phone numbers through IP addresses. Most of the time, you need a subpoena, but okay I am diverting from the main plot. The main character is a surgeon who, as usual, has a terrible disease, has an unhappy marriage and all that jazz. She owns a site similar to postsecret, and the play mostly revolves around this, and fateful coincidences. By the way, this is the only play that involves a queer sub-plot, the main character being desperately in love with her ex-girlfriend she left for a heterosexual marriage 12 years ago. (Last year, both finalist plays were queer or queer-related)
At one of the beginning scenes between Charlotte and William, I wasn’t sure whether it was bad acting or bad writing that was screwing up the scene – but I am inclined towards both. (You can’t put those words in people’s mouths – they sound good on paper, but terrible and terribly pretentious when spoken.) Other than this scene, this was a fairly well-written play, especially given the writer is my age(and incidentally, has been my school-mate from secondary school onwards, and was in the same class in sec 1 and 2), and straight (for having handled the queer subplot with sufficient tact). I am glad it made it to finals, and I do think it has potential.
Official synopsis: Soya Bean by David Fuhrmann-Lim is a witty and tongue-in-cheek play that takes a behind-the-scene look at a group of young fimmakers in Singapore who attempt to remake an obsure 1970s science-fiction film from the US called Soylent Green!
My Take: Okay, I thought the writer was making things up, but it turns out Soylent Green is an actual film. How does he even know about this obscure 70s film? Because he is yet another film-maker. (Someone please explain to me the irony of having two film-makers in a play competition.) The script was originally written as a film-script, and it did feel like one. David admits he couldn’t get funding for it, so I think we can guess why it is in this competition. I did like it, it was quirky and interesting. But like the judge said, I’d really rather watch it as a film/mockumentary. The ending was just cliche and predictable, and it kinda felt like the writer did not know how to end off this drifting plot, and decided to kill them off. And that would not have been necessary had it been a mockumentary, just fading out would have done the job better.
Despite me being harsh on these plays, they are actually not that bad – I just have high standards and am a certified bitch. Overall, THEATREiDOLS is looking good, and if you want to catch yet another free performance, do email email@example.com for tickets for the finals, which is on March 17th.