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“Confusions” by Alan Ayckbourn

October 15, 2010
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Event: “Confusions” by Alan Ayckbourn
Venue: DBS Arts Centre
Run: 13th Oct – 16th Oct 2010

This is one of those occasions where Ilkosa and I wander into the theatre absolutely clueless as to what to expect.

All we know is that it is a play called “Confusions”, to be staged at the DBS Arts Centre.

We’ve not heard of Alan Ayckbourn before, nor do we know anything about The Stage Club…and neither do we have any idea as to what the play is going to be about.

No matter.

We came out of the theatre 2 hours later being that much more enlightened.

Believe it or not, The Stage Club was founded as early as 1945, and is Singapore’s oldest theatre company.

It is a not-for-profit community theatre group, and has put up an average of 5 productions a year for the last 65 years!

Impressive track record indeed.

They have done a range of productions, including many classic Shakespeare plays as well.

The play “Confusions” is structurally very interesting.

It comprises four mini-plays of roughly 25 mins each, and even though the four premises are completely unrelated, there is always one character from the previous mini-play that will spill over to the next mini-play.

That’s the device which the playwright used to faintly link the four segments together.

In terms of cast, every new character in each segment was played by a different actor, which made things really fresh as we got to see about 15 different actors throughout the production.

I thought the first play “Mother Figure” was interesting.

It depicted a housewife who, perhaps due to her preoccupation with raising her baby, behaves in an unnaturally “motherly” manner towards her neighbour couple.

“Motherly” in the sense that she treats her visitors like absolute children by forcing them to sit down and drink their milk and such.

But the fascinating thing is that the visiting couple somehow, on their own accord, behave like children in the way they start a fight in front of the housewife, so perhaps she is not out-of-order in treating them like children after all.

The second play “Drinking Companion” exposed the sheer ugliness of the male species when being faced with a beautiful woman in a bar setting.

The play got really draggy at one point when all that seemed to be happening was that the guy was trying his best to come on to the girl but she was having none of it.

There wasn’t much tension to speak of to keen the audience engaged, and it was more of a case of dread to the point of being disgusted by his behaviour.

I didn’t enjoy this segment at all.

It was almost unbearable to watch, the way the scene was dragged out at length.

The third segment “Between Mouthfuls” was rather enjoyable, especially in the way the focus shifted from table to table.

One moment we’re hearing this couple on the left having their conversation, and the next moment they drop their volume and the couple on the right side start speaking audibly.

It was a very clever way to shift seamlessly between the two parties.

The last segment “Gosforth’s Fete” was more like a farce in the way it relied heavily on physical humour.

It was definitely funny, although at times it seemed like the play just went on and on without a definite sense of story or plot.

My favourite bit was the part when Gosforth and Milly were discussing their affair in hushed tones, but unbeknownst to them there was a nearby mic that was picking up everything they said and broadcasting it to a whole mass of townsfolk.

If there was a common thread between each of the four mini-plays, I would say that it was the lack of true communication between people.

Yes, they were often speaking with one another, but were they truly listening?

I think this is a theme which hits home with a lot of people.

How many people do you know who are truly interested in listening to what you have to say?

Lastly, a good word has to be put in for the beautiful directing by Susan Penrice Tyrie.

My favourite element of the directing was the decision to have a “colour theme” for each of the four segments – orange, red, blue and green (in that order).

You could see that there was a conscious effort to colour-coordinate not only the apparel, but the props and sets as well for each individual segment.

Beautiful stuff.

I liked that very much.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 28, 2010 9:49 am

    I guess for me, the best play out of the 4 would be the 1st one “Mother Figure” with the underlying references.

    Yup, the colour theme element was nice, shifting you between different settings. They probably represented different temperaments too.

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