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Cooling Off Day (The Restaging)

March 1, 2012
by

Event: “Cooling Off Day” by W!ld Rice (originally staged in August ’11)
Venue: SOTA Drama Theatre
Run: 23rd Feb – 11th Mar 2012

Relight My Fire

You could say that most of the dust has already settled by now.

It’s funny, but when you think about it, it has actually been less than 10 months since the 2011 General Elections, but a lot of it does seem like quite a distant memory now.

How quickly we forget.

However, W!ld Rice must really thank their lucky stars for the recent shenanigans involving a certain Hougang MP, which paves the way for a likely by-election in the near future, thus bringing a whole new level of relevance and timeliness to “Cooling Off Day” once again.

“Cooling Off Day” was first staged in August last year as part of the Man Singapore Theatre Festival.

I had already done a lengthy review of the initial staging (here), and since it doesn’t seem like too much has been changed in this restaging (apart from the fact that Janice Koh now replaces Tan Kheng Hua), I shan’t dwell too much on the main content of the play itself.

I would, however, like to share some random thoughts I had on watching the play earlier this evening:

- This was my first time visiting the SOTA Drama Theatre, and I was suitably impressed. Slightly smaller than the Drama Centre Theatre from the looks of it, but it had that cosy feel, which I liked. And the interior colour scheme gave it a very vibrant and energetic feel. It’s heartening to know that there has been another good-class theatre added to our local pool of theatre venues. I look forward to attending more shows at this venue.

- Part of “Cooling Off Day’s” charm lies in its heavy use of caricaturism. And credit obviously goes to the six fine actors for making many of the lines much funnier than they would have seemed at first glance.

- Janice Koh is a dead ringer for Tan Kheng Hua. At times the resemblance is almost uncanny, both physically and in their acting style. Wonderful replacement.

- The opening skit still gets me every time. I’m not sure if anyone else out there feels the same, but I just loved every bit of the opening skit where the female student ruminates on why we should simply vote for the opposition and not for the ruling party. Very rational and coherent thoughts from a young girl. I thought this skit was especially notable because it kicks off the show, and yet kind of stumps the viewer for that brief moment because the viewer is probably expecting a show filled with “anti-PAP” rant.

- Nothing unites a theatre crowd quite like anti-PAP rhetoric. Is there such a thing as a PAP-voting theatre-goer? (I’m just kidding.)

- As I said, the 2011 General Election seems like quite a distant memory now, and I got the sense that “Cooling Off Day” helped remind us of some of the finer details of last year which we had almost forgotten about by now. And it also rekindled some of the fire that burned rather brightly in us last year, albeit for an intense few weeks.

- The Mr Brown “Bak Chor Mee” skit just never fails to deliver. As it was back in August last year, it once again brought the house down earlier this evening. Who cares if the Tin Pei Ling gag has been flogged to death? Or the “once every fifty years” line for that matter? This skit was easily the comedic zenith of the entire show.

- Some parts I didn’t understand: Shouldn’t it be “81 out of 87 seats” instead of “81 out of 90 seats” as mentioned by one of the characters in the play? Also, why did Jo Kukathas mention something about those words being said in “1999”, and then saying that that was “20 years ago”? Not trying to nitpick here, but I believe I was not the only one wondering about the same things.

- Again, I didn’t really get the whole “Easterners vs. Westerners” rhetoric which seemed to feature so heavily in the play. Didn’t think it was particularly resonant last August, and don’t think it’s particularly resonant now either.

- The last scene of “Cooling Off Day” is, of course, that highly-memorable and visually-arresting set of 81 white chairs and 6 red chairs all lined up neatly on stage. When I first saw it earlier this evening, my first thought was “Ah, but it’s no longer 6 red chairs!” And true enough, later on after the applause, Neo Swee Lin went to symbolically remove one of the red chairs. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

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