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Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.

Friday, April 27, 2007

So, the third and final instalment of Short and Sweet for this run, at least for me. I'm done with this and will skip the final night. But I will say first that it was a very enjoyable experience on the overall. It's not bad at all, it's just that there's no point in watching the final night when 90% of what they'll put up is stuff I've already seen before. That night is really about socializing for those who've watched it before, and I don't have that many people to socialize with.

But let that take nothing away from the whole series, and tonight in particular. It was a very good night power-loaded with the best actors, including some pretty big names in the local scene. And there were a couple of very decent plays in the selection too!

The opener this time was a pretty light-hearted item called The Critic, which essentially is a comedic treatment of what happens when a play is interrupted because the actors get irritated with a member of the audience who has been making lots of noises - involuntary ones, as it turns out - and decide to haul the offending person up on stage. Turns out he's a theatre critic, and the actors take their turns moving back and forth between slamming him and adoring him. It's the kind of show you like to pick for an entree, but not all that memorable. Still, a good choice for an opener.

Can't say the same about the second item though, a slightly confusing piece entitled Haven't. The basic idea is of a man who goes to where he thinks is Heaven, only to find that this is not quite the place he had expected it to be. And because of that, he is lost. The raw idea is good if a tad predictable, but what really took it down was the way the scripting didn't quite work out. The whole sense of confusion by the guy really ends up translating to the audience, and I have to admit, I'm confused by what seems to be going on with the play at a mechanical level. Just how is it attempting to illustrate the guy's confusion?

But I'd give the playwright the benefit of credit for testing out the idea of what happens when a guy proclaims himself to be a believer, and presumably has been doing all the things a conscious believer does, hoping to end up in Heaven. This is, in a way, where I cannot resist a poke and jibe at still-living people who take up religion because they think it's their ticket to Heaven. No, I'm sorry, if that's why you signed up to a religion, I'm afraid you will be quite assured of not getting what you want. It's not so much because I don't believe Heaven exists - that's quite another matter - but more because I suspect Heaven doesn't admit those who actively want to go in. It doesn't work like that, as far as I understand it. Heaven is a place for people who have attained freedom from want, and if you want to go to Heaven, then immediately by definition you don't qualify.

But, of course, I digress.

Which brings me back to Exchanges, a little reality-grounded piece about a former couple who are meeting up again after many years. There's really no point in me reproducing the entire play here, but the spirit of it is that they talk a bit about what has changed for them and what has not, and they busy themselves with the idea of hurting each other a little before they realize they still sorta love each other a little. The emotional movement and pacing was, I thought, pretty good. Brief moments of not-too-over-the-top humour, peppering what is mostly a very emotional play where the two try to relate what has happened to them. Sure, it's a bit sad they don't end up reuniting, but that's really for soppy romantics, and reality does not always work that way, especially when you're 40 already, maybe even 50.

Remember The Kites was among the plays that featured a highly recognizable local cast, and that power loading was justified by what is just as much a good script. When old men sit down and reminisce about the days when they were young or younger, you're likely to get the occasional dispute over a couple of details. But just what do those disputes say about our memories? What happens when we even forget what our spouses - who have moved on before us - looked like? Photographs - are they a tool for remembering or a mockery of our failure to remember? When forgetting becomes the norm as we age, and when we hear of life flashing before our eyes just at the moment when we are about to die, is it that good a thing to remember it all and see it vividly as if it was happening right there and then?

That's the spirit of what the play dealt with. And it dealt with that pretty well with some clever scripting, but the actors were as great a contributing element, right down to remembering to walk off stage in character. It's a little touch that might have been missing in the other, newer actors.

After something as strong as that, 4 Seconds was always likely to be a downer from there. Truth me, to me, it was, but much less than I had feared it to be. The basic premise to the plot was sound, if rather predictable after the opening few minutes. Unfortunately, that was the problem with this play - albeit not a particularly severe one. When everything ends up unfolding exactly the way you gradually expect it to, the tail end ends up lacking incentive and momentum to keep up the tempo and even raise it. After the main things were dealt with inside the first half of this one, there's not a lot keeping it chugging on. But the actors interacted well and kept up a good dynamic throughout, and credit should be given for that. It's really a script problem, albeit not a gloriously big one.

My initial pre-show forecast for Lester's List wasn't particularly optimistic, although it's a little hard to pin down why. Maybe I had come in expecting a conversation between Lester and God, given the way the synopsis was written. It's a little pseudo-comedic, possibly even noir, what I had in mind. So once the story quickly pans out to be something else, it was relatively pleasantly surprising.

The storytelling worked pretty well, and the point to be made was clear quickly enough. Appropriately, I had a quiet laugh about Lester making his list of things to achieve when, because that whole long-term-planning approach to life is just so plainly wrong. When life is reduced to chasing a pre-set list of targets, you do not learn to savour the process, and that makes things so much hollower. I mean, wooing a girl (or a guy - some girls are much braver nowadays), getting married, all the sweet nothings after that, and life with the kids - if and when you decide to have kids - it's all about process rather than product. In fact, so much of life is about process, not product, and as far as that goes, it's not about generating target lists, much less long ones.

The touch at the end where Lester, having seemingly realized what was wrong with his previous way of life, ends up doing it again? That was so "he doesn't learn, does he?", that's what I'll say about it. But it was only then that it struck me how textbook this particular script as a whole was, right down to the manner in which the cast were used. The play doesn't really register strongly in the memory over time, apart from perhaps trying to articulate the simple if powerful point that life isn't about to-do lists. It's not about to be remembered for great lines, good acting, or technical cleverness. And that's the big drawback for this play - it's too textbook, even in trying to use certain theatre devices and routines. Still, overall, it was a sound effort if ultimately unexciting.

... Which isn't perhaps the same thing I could say about Frostbite. It's a very experimental effort, but as I had put it there and then, experimental to what purpose? Just what was the point the script tried to play with? Something perhaps a little more than talking about a guy who cut off his own hands? Firstly, I find the idea a bit gross, which already means the "this had better be worth my squeamish shock" red flag was raised. But the story then felt like it was going in some weird meander, and that didn't feel good. I never managed to sit down and let it all sink in, except in realizing the madness of the protagonist, or more correctly, perhaps, of the voices inside his head.

There will be those super-postmodernists who suggest that a play need not exist for a reason, and that its existence is reason itself. There will be those who suggest presumption for a need to be too constrained by the proverbial box. Maybe, but this particular item felt like a play that was trying too hard to show off something, thereby leaving the actual work sprawling somewhat awkwardly. There may be those who like it, but I'm perhaps more realist in my theatre traditions. I like to demand some sort of proper, realistic storyline that has some kind of narrative focus and endpoint. This one just ended up looking too much of a personal talent parade for me.

But then I'm harsh like that.

Fortunately, I don't have that many harsh things to say about Not On Our Hands, where two guys populating some place in a post-apocalyptic world look back at the apocalypse (described much like a tsunami, perhaps inspired by the 2004 tsunami that hit parts of Asia), come to terms with the deaths all around them, and consider the merits of having a smoke with a cigarette found on a dead body. It was pretty okay, which is to say it isn't spectacular, but the overall scripting looked relatively sound to me. Maybe there are ways to make the scripting stronger, and perhaps sharpen the issues even more. But the effort as it stood was creditable enough.

The next item was actually quite hilarious. How To essentially looks at the world of online date-sites, or as I'd put it, Friendster 2.0. It's always laughable watching the whole process of people trying to fill up a date-site form and often passing themselves off as accentuated or downplayed versions of who they are, or better still, outright lying through their oh-so-perfectly-braced teeth. And for the most part, the first two-thirds of the play were quite like that, when they got four different people to register together for this date-site. I'd say the four don't even know each other, although really, that's inconsequential.

You get your usual bag of laughs, especially the sex jokes, like the one about William Hung and being a bit of a horse, and really, I was probably not too far off from stomach cramps. But something felt missing, and there was a danger of the whole thing going bland in the memory. Then the play turned a big bit more serious in the final third, and in a sense, that 'saved' the show. Not that pure laughs aren't good, but this would have reduced to being a story of four random people trying to register for an online date-site. When the ideas got crystallized a bit more and slightly - though not overly heavily - obviated, suddenly we see the point. It's not a point we probably don't understand in private, mind, but obviating it just makes the show sharply better than it seemed to have been heading. The usual trick is trying to decide how much obviating to do without making the whole show go bad.

We were then treated to a bonus run of The Complaint, and given I've reviewed it already, I won't repeat the exercise here. But, and I must say this, it was a real laugh. I really was pretty close to stomach cramps and grabbing the nearest arm to get a grip on myself. And you know what that means. Perhaps thankfully, I didn't grab the arm.

But I'm glad you liked that last show and laughed so hard, and I'm really happy you enjoyed the evening as a whole. I don't know how many times I glanced over to see you smile and even laugh, and I'll be honest, that made me enjoy it even more.

So, that's the end of the show. But there's a whole bunch of theatre things coming up, and that means I'll be needing to prepare myself for more crammed schedules and less money in the pocket. Ouch, ouch. But if it's enjoyable, it's worth it.

gambitch [ 1:14 AM]

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The interview? Oh, that went largely as expected.

Basically, the question I most expected to be asked was asked, and I had something of an answer to it. As for the questions I had expected them not to bother to ask, they really skipped as well.

Much of it was formality, in a sense. But with interviews like this, how well the formalities are handled will have a bearing on the final outcome.

Doing the tie was probably the right thing. I had wanted to skip it, but decided to seek advice and was told I'm much better off wearing one than not wearing one. Whether that's going to give me enough bonus points to secure things is another matter.

But like you said, I've given my shot, and tried hard. Was it my best? Under the circumstances, yeah, probably. And if that one falls through, there's always the alternative plan.

I've listened to you. As you no doubt would like me to.

I shouldn't need to hope you're right. I ought to trust you that much.

But I somehow feel I still need to hope you're right.

So, hope I shall.

gambitch [ 4:16 PM]

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The last few days, I suddenly fell in love with a song. Yes, I get spells when I suddenly like certain songs I didn't previously know or particularly like, but this one really got me all emotional and stuff. I've actually heard it a few times before, but never until now did I suddenly feel like wanting to know the song, sing it, even play it.

The song? Jasmine Flower by Fish Leong.

I don't know whether it's because I'm quietly developing a thing for Fish. I didn't know she sang this song, actually. I think the first time I heard it might have been back when I was watching Snakes and Lovers. It was probably one of the songs they played before the actual start of the play, sorta like house music. Back then, the song didn't really register that strongly in my head, but it managed to creep in and hold a place in my consciousness.

I only heard it again more recently at "the usual place". Maybe it's because I got to hear it more often, or maybe it's because I was alone and able to better concentrate on listening to the song. This time, it finally stuck. Soft, somewhat airy melody, going with very sad lyrics. Tugs really hard at the emotional strings in a slow, gentle but eventually powerful way.

The song's actually based on a folk ditty that is very much lighter and more innocent. But that's the origin - the end product is very different in feel, and it gives a totally different meaning and interpretation to the song. I mean, try picturing someone who's just experienced something very sad and heavy, and trying to lighten the mood up by recalling some of the nicer, more innocent things that had nothing to do with what made that person sad in the first place.

I would really recommend reading the lyrics, or better still, actually listening to the song. Unfortunately, YouTube does not have a music video of this song available. I think this is one of the songs that didn't make the main numbers. But that's such a pity, because it really is a very lovely if sad song. Then again, many good songs suffer this fate, while others - not always as good - end up taking the limelight in the commercialized world of consumer music.

As for why I'm developing lots of feelings for this song, I don't know whether it's because of the melody or lyrics, but I'm finding myself feeling lots of resonance with it. Put the lyrics side by side with some of the things I'm experiencing in real life, and maybe you'll have a bit of a clue.

That said, I really have to know my place. Yet it feels so... I don't know... hard?

gambitch [ 11:11 PM]

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I don't know how some of these teams play the game on The Amazing Race, and I don't know why some of these contestants dislike Dustin and Kandice, and to tell the truth, I don't even know why their behaviour should be a controversy in another ho-hum day when no one was eliminated in the tenth leg.

Because they were playing entirely within the rules. And to boot, they weren't even the ones who made the entirely decent proposal. That would be Oswald and Danny.

In case anyone wonders or simply cannot remember, a quick recap should help. Oswald and Danny, having blown their cash reserves two legs ago in Malaysia, had practically no money at the start of this leg, apart from the $73 they were handed and what little they saved in Hong Kong. Fretting about being caught financially short, they offered the deal to Dustin and Kandice, who had played the Yield on Eric and Danielle last week, where Oswald and Danny could Yield anyone Dustin and Kandice wanted for some cash from the girls.

It was a transaction, money for Yield, and it was proposed by Oswald and Danny, not the girls. And for gawd's sake, Dustin and Kandice did it in a move of self-preservation, really, just in case Oswald and Danny decided to Yield them instead. Why that should be interpreted as evil I do not understand, because the Yield is within the rules of the game. Heck, the producers created the Yield several seasons ago! There are no moral issues involved; it's a tool, you choose to use it if you want to! Just like the Fast Forward!

But that point just kinda eludes bluff queen Mirna, especially, not to mention Eric and Danielle - who are the ones who get slapped with their second consecutive Yield. And if it bears reminding, they still didn't finish last this leg, and they wouldn't be eliminated even if they did anyway. So what's the fuss all about?


Back to the episode as a whole, and this time they're running around in Macau quite quickly, which is nice. They did Hong Kong the last time, but Macau's getting a new look-in. Not surprisingly, the Roadblock at the Macau Tower involves jumping off the tower with a bungee cord. That kind of thing just gets fashionable nowadays, but it's not that surprising to me because... well, I've seen it before on another show made in Taiwan. It's still nice to see, though. Don't get me wrong on that.

The Detour was nice, too, especially when they decided to showcase the old Chinese tradition of making noodles with a gigantic bamboo or wooden stick. Usually bamboo. Westerners might not understand the point to this, but the use of the big stick to press down on the dough in a rocking manner helps to stretch the dough and give the noodle strands a very nice, elastic feel when you bite them. It's a totally different technique to the making of pasta, not least because the strands are usually thinner than fully-cooked vermicelli pasta (not rice vermicelli - that's Chinese).

The other Detour wasn't a bad idea either, involving transporting dragon heads and drums. Nice to see they're picking all the Chinese-themed stuff for Macau, although you wonder why they came up with what they did in Hong Kong in that case. I'm fine with it though. That said, Oswald and Danny don't do a brilliant job managing this Detour, which kinda burns plenty of time for them.

Over at the other side, where everyone else is making noodles, it's nice to see Dustin and Kandice enjoy themselves, although they are understandably surprised at the whole idea of riding on a huge stick. Yes, yes, I understand all the stuff about sexual innuendos coming to mind, but please, it's just a technique to make good food. And they should really taste a sample of the noodles they make to understand the difference! Traditional Chinese char siew to go with it wouldn't be bad!

Charla and Mirna, on the other hand, don't do so well, to the point where they're overtaken by Eric and Danielle at the noodles. Charla isn't great with all her walking around the top of the noodle-making counter, shoes and all, but the worst is again reserved for Mirna, who just knows nothing other than treating her cousin the way she treats everyone else - badly, and very badly. I know who I don't want for my lawyer if I should ever be in trouble in New York.

Anyway, everyone moves on eventually to drive some very cute little cars, which in Macau is referred to as mini-Mokes. They're really cute little cars, not unlike the ones that were featured some seasons ago in Eastern Europe, in what I think was the Kris and Jon season. The only difference? These cars in Macau are even smaller! They're absolute joys to watch, though driving them is not nearly so easy. Which is a point that Mirna gets to learn before long, when she drives the car right up the kerb and into a lamppost.

You know, this is usually the point when I rant about Mirna and all the bad things that she brings to the show - including castigating your own physically-challenged teammate for your own failure to pick an alternative partner that'd help you race better - but seeing how this has happened too often, and how there will be further opportunities later in the show, I'd let that pass. It's bad enough as it is.

The order of the teams shifts after this leg, and while Oswald and Danny do come in last, they're not knockout out, yet. Then again, this looks likely to be the final non-elimination leg, so these guys, who have been fun before, have really got a lot to do. And they're beginning to lose their gloss again after a below-par outing in Malaysia. I think it's getting to them, that damn killer fatigue.

But the Beauty Queens are improving with every episode, and they're looking really good for the million. Go girls! (Er, not you, Charla and Mirna.)

gambitch [ 12:05 AM]

Monday, April 23, 2007

Another evening of Short and Sweet, another batch of bite-sized playlets. This one wasn't planned for early on, but seeing how good the first night out was, and after realizing that this WildCards segment was selling pretty fierce too, I reckoned spending the Sunday night out was a pretty decent idea. And it was!

I was close to not getting a seat, apparently, because I had arrived at the place later than I had planned for. That was because of a piece of work I had to do. But do it properly I did, so I suppose getting a good night out was fair reward. The turnout was pretty strong too, so it was really quite close. Plenty of interesting people around, some nicely-dressed girls, a couple of fairly charming old regulars, and even a guy I recognize from watching a previous production.

But of course, the night was mainly about the plays. And it started with this work called Pure Sugar. Basically, it talks about sugar and sweets, much of it from the perspective of a little girl aged about, oh, eight? It explored sugar as a valuable luxury, as a health hazard, as a product of the hard toil and labour of many workers, as a tool used by bad guys to bait kids, as part of old ceremonial offerings... The different facets, each covered briefly as the little girl wondered on many things.

Overall, the script didn't really leave that many powerful impressions, and I thought a couple of the lines seemed both rather overt and jarringly out of place. It wasn't exactly the best-integrated work from that point of view. The performance itself was okay, I guess, although the opening "la-la-la-la-la" sequence didn't seem to reconcile well with the rest of the story.

Catching a glimpse of Ghosts on a Bumboat was a pleasant little bonus, according to the guy who hosted the evening. I don't have terribly many reasons to disagree with that statement, although the overall image left in my memory was again not all that stunning. To keep it short, it was about how a young local couple and a pair of tourists spent their time on a half-hour bumboat ride.

The local couple were just trying to enjoy themselves while the guy had something in mind, and really, for the most part, their interactions made for something seeming a touch uninteresting. The attraction was the foreign couple, who are on some kind of working trip, doing research for the guy's latest book. Except the guy hasn't been writing that much lately; mostly it had been the missus doing the dirty work for the last three books. And things haven't exactly been working great as far as their relationship went, the old man maintaining his bunch of girlfriends outside, and the missus having something of an affair with her old flame of sorts.

Eventually the noise gets excessive, and the local guy is pushed into intervening by his girlfriend. Not the brightest idea, as would be shown later on. Something happens which makes the girl leave the boat in a huff - presumably after it had pulled over to shore. Then the foreign couple also leave, having sorta made up. It's a little bit messy towards the end, which makes for, well, not quite the best of memories.

The third play was actually a foreign script entitled Mission Unaccomplished, which kinda had a double reference to it. It was about a small-town celebration of a guy coming back from a war mission where he escaped unscathed. The celebration wasn't all positive, however, given the way the play unfolded. Perhaps it was one of those American boys sent to Iraq, where they might have seen conflict and even a few people lost their lives. This guy was lucky to come back alive and whole, yet, as it turns out, not quite whole. The scars of having seen conflict close up remained in his mind, and he was gripped by a huge paranoia about other people potentially killing him. He has a bit of a talk with a girl - presumably his girlfriend - but... Let's just say it doesn't end well.

The script was good, and the production not bad either, to be honest. Quite a moving piece of work, exposing the really fearful things about military conflict after it is all over. For the guys involved in it, even if they don't lose an arm or a leg, they do end up returning changed people. And when they are confronted with the unfamiliar, people who trigger notions of "the other" and prompt some ill-justified fear, self-preservation through killing becomes first instinct. To paraphrase the lead actor, when that happens, the enemy isn't the other guy; it's us.

Marr(ed)iage examines the relationship between a married couple which has slipped into rather severe dysfunctionality, where the only thing that keeps them keeping up appearances is the mere fact they have a kid. The couple aren't so much openly bickering as constantly simmering underneath, where the wife's attempts at recovering something through talking are rebuffed by a husband who seems to know too well that talking only soothes the surface wounds for a while. With phrases like "love is overrated" and "I don't want a cleaning and cooking machine" and "can't we just at least be civil to each other", you can really feel the dysfunctionality oozing out. A touch melodramatic, perhaps, but this really jolted us up a lot more after the slow start to the evening.

What was particularly poignant about the script was how the man talked of wanting to break out and rise above his status as part of the middle class. The desire to aspire to greater things not being met and shared by the support of the wife seemed to hurt him a great deal, and he seems to have failed to figure out how to win the continued affection of his wife, knowing only how to buy things. And then the wife responds with the line "just because I don't reciprocate doesn't mean I don't love you". Well, she tried.

Your Son Is Dead was, in my opinion, the most emotive of the lot on offer for the evening, and it's really interesting to note that the whole performance was run by a bunch of university students, standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the cast and crew. The script's new too, apparently, and although the way the story runs has a touch of predictability to it, it still took nothing away from the powerful emotive delivery by the cast. Between the anguish of a young father losing his ten-year-old son, the confused loss for words by a rather human hospital transplant coordinator, and the seemingly-religious but in truth severely distrusting and venom-tongued pastor, the interactions are strong and captivating. The play ends pretty interestingly if at first abruptly, when the pastor receives a phone call that, shall I just say, might lead him to question what he has been doing.

Sisters was, in all honesty, a rather confusing effort at conveying the idea of pain and agony. The play synopsis wrote: "These days, everything is being outsourced - even pain." The pain, as we gradually learn, is about a pair of sisters and their mother dealing with the agony of rape by a familiar person. But it's kinda hard to follow the entire thing, not least because of the messy way in which the lamps circling the stage are being played with. Switching one light on, and off, and another on... Pulling perhaps too many stunts, I should guess. The lines don't sink well for me, I have to admit.

The good news was that that was probably the last heavy play of the evening, as the three after that all had strong doses of humour in them, though in different ways. Dragon's Lair told the story of Sir Aloicious, a knight of medieval times when dragons roamed the lands and foreign invaders threatened castles all around. So Sir Aloicious was on a mission to slay a dragon, which had just eaten the wife of the local tavernkeeper and badly hurt the tavernkeeper himself. But the courage and determination of Sir Aloicious didn't seem to shake off the misgivings of a man who realized he was Clerk of the Realm and a decently-trained knight adjunct.

The funny bits involved Sir Aloicious speaking about having to do routine, mechanical paperwork while the scribes waxed lyrical about the regular knights' adventures, and all the revelations about training to become a knight, which in all honesty sounded pretty much like a modern-day military battle obstacle course, just with medieval-day equivalent substitutes like flaming arrows rather than machine gun fire. And then there's the final bit of irony when the regular knights, returning from their latest war success, had their laugh about the whole practical joke of making Aloicious knight adjunct in the first place. You pity Aloicious, at the end of it; here's a man who really believed in what he was doing and had the raw courage, if not the brains, to be a good knight. Definitely a story that left strong impressions.

If there's a hint of the tragic in that story, the next two are pure laugh-inducing slapstick. I'll keep it short on Misconception, suffice to say that it was about a little pubescent schoolgirl being fed the wrong information about sex and pregnancy, prompting an entirely ridiculous interrogation by a young wife when she heard the wrong things and ended up suspecting her plumber husband of paedophilia. Pretty over-the-top scripting overall, and matching acting by the actress playing the young wife. The nervous timidity of the schoolgirl was pretty decently presented, too.

But if you thought that brought the laughs, it was just warming up to the final item, The Complaint. Set in a police station, a young boy/girl(?) files a complaint against his/her father for being old, old-fashioned, and concerned enough to send the boy/girl to school personally even when he/she's already in junior high. You might notice I wrote boy/girl, partially because I can't make up my mind whether the person's supposed to be a boy or a girl. It shouldn't be that hard, but the synopsis has the character as a girl, and the actor chosen was a guy putting on a blatantly over-the-top effeminate performance that really pulled all the laughs. Throw in an actress with her head turbaned up (a bit) and having a fake beard painted on, and you can imagine how all that gender-bending is basically pure slapstick feed.

Great laughs, that, and it was a really great way to end what was a wild and light evening. But the Short and Sweet series is not quite over yet for me. There's another show later in the week, and I'm sure that one will be very enjoyable as well...

gambitch [ 9:21 AM]

Sunday, April 22, 2007

So, what about the play I watched last night?

Well, there's really not very much to write about it. ImmortalX was really more of a production for younger people, mainly students, and the chief reason I went for it was because I wanted to see something a bit lighter and less taxing on the brain. In that sense, I was prepared for what was coming. It was really just a night to sit down and chill with some good fun, a point that is made even more relevant by what happened the night before.

Having said that, I pretty much got my ticket's worth of what I had asked for. I knew I hadn't been asking for much, and really, much of the point of paying to watch this performance was because I had never seen this company's shows before as far as I remember, and this was a useful chance to get a little acquainted. Which was how I learnt that this group seems to be more about popularizing theatre among the younger ones and making it more accessible. For the most part, ImmortalX was populated by some blatant in-your-face humour typical of a play aimed at drawing a schoolstudent audience.

I'm fine with that, really, as I am fine with the base premise of the story, which is about the descendants of immortals in a world where immortals are rendered unnecessary. The point was made in a rather obviating manner very early into the performance, which I guess is kinda spoonfeeding. But remember, this is for drawing new audiences, so the sophistication a theatre-watching veteran would expect with higher-end plays has to be left at the front-of-house counter.

So what happens when immortals are rendered unnecessary? What does it then feel like to be an immortal? If you're an immortal, how do you deal with it? Hold on to the traditions and eagerly try to keep them on life support? Or just come to terms with reality quickly and adapt accordingly? The show gives representations of both, although the eagerly-anticipated clash of viewpoints turns out to be disappointing because it's never conducted between two equals. Not to mention the fact that the positions of both sides are both clear and unopen to adjustment. That closed-mindedness does sorta kill the fight a little, because you just know it's brick wall against brick wall.

But there's this really funny little bit in the script, where there's mention of the immortals' legendary skill of being able to project their voices thousands of miles away. Nowadays, with technology, you can do that with your mobile phone. And indeed, that point is brought up as part of the dialogue between the conservatives and the adaptationists (I'm probably inventing this word). Next thing we know, the mobile phone, the paradigm example of triumph of technology over immortals' powers, is dismantled, and its parts used to put together - dig this - a machine that enhances immortals' powers! I really had a laugh when I saw that, because there's something nice and contradictory about that. Is it the conservatives' implicit admission that hard technology is powerful? Or is it just that the conservatives are clutching at anything that will strengthen their super powers, even if the thing in question is the very thing that took away the relevance of their powers to start with?

Another pretty interesting little observation of the play: It's basically asserted that the immortals lost their powers as a consequence of fewer people praying to them, so it suggests that the immortals' powers are really a function of how much people pray to them to start with. It's an interesting theme if it got to be developed more, and it's a pity it wasn't really explored harder. It has potential. Really, though, lots of things in this script had potential, and it's a touch sad that so much of them weren't played there and then.

The acting, as expected, takes on a heavily-caricatured coating in parts, complete with weird shrieks, whimsical posing and some seriously OTT movement. The more sophisticated ones among us in the audience might not favour that, but given that the entire premise of the play is so unreal, we really can afford to let go of that. Overall, though, the delivery is pretty sound, not that there is terribly much to test the cast on. The entire unrealness of the play gives plenty of licence to have carefree fun, and that's really the spirit of things. Even the section where the Monkey God is heard delivering Hong Kong-style Canto-accented Mandarin actually looks (and sounds) pretty good.

I really cannot comment on the technical aspects of this play, like the props and sets, the sound and music, or the magic tricks - yes, there were magic tricks, kiddie, I know. It wasn't all that exciting, but it's hard for me to think of how it could have been better. Part of me suspects it really has to do with the nature of the play having minimal dependence on what the props and sets and stuff are like, while just why the magic tricks were thrown in still baffles me a bit. But the show wasn't broken because of any of these things, so it's really unfair to indulge in commenting on that.

So I would think the significant thing about this play would be how the scripting could have been a bit more teasing and cajoling in dealing with the potential conflict issues. Surely that will enrich the play so much more as we are made to think about things, about what role immortals have to play in this modern technological world where we believe more in our gadgets than in super powers. But if we had that loaded and crammed into the script, it might either (a) make the show much longer, or (b) kill the story due to lack of space.

As it is, this effort might be something relatively juvenile, but really, at the end of the day, the relevant question is just what this production company is trying to do. Once you've got the answer to that worked out, maybe a couple of lights will shine on the right spots.

gambitch [ 6:51 AM]


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