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Someday, Samsara

September 11, 2010

Event: Someday, Samsara
Venue: Play Den @ The Arts House
Run: 8th Sept – 12th Sept 2010

When it comes to a play that portrays the pain and torture that is associated with the Chinese Ten Courts of Hell, it would be highly tempting for a reviewer to look into his/her bag of tricks and pull out an arsenal of clever puns that play on the whole theme of “hell” when critiquing it, especially so when you take into account the fact that the play didn’t exactly garner very glowing reviews from Adeline Chia in yesterday’s Life! as well as from Ng Yi-Sheng on the Inkpot Reviews website (here).

But I shan’t resort to that.

What do I know about reviewing theatre anyway?

I’m just a casual theatre-lover, that’s all.

Anyhow, I accepted the kind invitation of a friend to go catch “Someday, Samsara”, the latest production by Play Den Productions, essentially a monologue written by Bryan Tan and directed by Christina Sergeant, with Jeremiah Choy as the Artistic Curator and Alfred Tang as the Producer.

The thing I liked about the production was the way they dressed up the entire Play Den to make it resemble the Chinese Ten Courts of Hell, such that the moment I walked in and was greeted by the usher with the words “Welcome to Hell”, I was immediately teleported into the sinister mythical underworld of sin and eternal suffering, where mere mortals (except for the protagonist Sandy Phillips, but more on that later) fear to tread.

Together with the music and sound effects by former composer-in-residence of the SSO John Sharpley, the ambience put me in the mood entirely.

However, I would have to say that the actual play itself left me somewhat disappointed.

The premise of the play is that an Englishwoman (Sandy Phillips) finds herself in the Chinese Ten Courts of Hell, about to face judgement (or condemnation, if you will) for her past sins.

Being obviously foreign to this whole concept of the Chinese Ten Courts of Hell, she is seemingly unaffected by all the evilness that surrounds her, but yet, through her self-reflection on her past deeds, she realises that the guilt from her own past inflicts even greater pain and suffering on her than the courts of hell ever would.

That’s as much as I could draw from the play, because for some reason I found myself strangely unaffected by the play.

I wasn’t able to be emotionally drawn into the play, even though there were definitely scenes of vulnerability and revelation portrayed by Sandy Phillips.

As such, it was rather trying for me to keep up with what was going on and having to gain a sense of empathy for the character.

Yesterday’s Life! review criticised the acting of Sandy Phillips, but I personally would not go as far as to say that.

However, as it was a monologue and she had to alternate between characters such as her mother and her husband, many a times I found it difficult to keep track of which persona she was donning, as I felt that the distinction was perhaps not made clear enough.

Lastly, just a point to note that you would probably be able to appreciate this play much more if you were familiar with the details of the Ten Courts of Hell, but nonetheless, there is a detailed write-up of this in the programme pamphlet.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ilkosa permalink
    September 11, 2010 6:34 pm

    I guess monologues are rather difficult to carry off, and not everyone can do it.

  2. Jeremy permalink*
    September 11, 2010 10:52 pm

    Yup, totally agree. It’s tough.


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