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Ma Goes Home

October 25, 2010

Event: “Ma Goes Home” by Action Theatre
Venue: Action Theatre (The Room Upstairs) @ 42 Waterloo Street
Run: 14th Oct – 24th Oct 2010

Just some quick thoughts on playwright Edgar Liao’s “Ma Goes Home”, which was staged by Action Theatre.

It is directed by Samantha Scott-Blackhall and produced by artistic director Ekachai Uekrongtham.

(I had left for a one-week holiday after catching it at Action Theatre last Friday, and thus my recollections of the play are hazy at best. It didn’t help that I was unable to locate a programme of the play that evening, for some strange reason or other.)

I was looking forward to this one, as I had heard some very good things about it.

“Ma Goes Home” had won Best New Play at “Theatre Idols” earlier this year, and I thought the play’s premise was fascinating as well.

One of the main impetuses for this play was the controversial comments made by a certain minister of ours last year whereby he suggested that Singaporeans consider sending our old folks to nursing homes in JB for reasons of affordability.

Thus, the play depicts an elderly woman who somehow is disallowed from entering the “Singapore” door in the underworld, because of the fact that she was laid to rest in a nursing home in JB.

(The rules of that particular underworld state that a person can only enter her home door if she had been laid to rest in her country of origin.)

As such, Ma gets sent back to the real world in an attempt to convince her son and her not-so-nice daughter-in-law to have her sent back to Singapore to be laid to rest there.

You could easily see the potential in such a premise.

It offers ample room for making a satirical point, as well as illuminate the importance of fillial piety and such.

However, I’m sad to say that the play failed to live up to its promise.

(NB: I was informed that the play had received tremendous reception at the readings, which contrasted deeply with the poor reception from the audience at the full staging last week. I thought it was a fascinating problem – how does a play become a hit at a reading, but fall flat at the full staging? But that is discussion for another day. Fascinating problem, nonetheless.)

The set was interesting, as it was not unlike those T-shaped runways you see at a fashion show, whereby the audience sits on either side of the runway, facing each other.

I felt this was a practical decision, considering the limited confines of The Room Upstairs, and it also allowed the actors to get really up-close with a large majority of the audience.

As for the script, it was evident that Edgar Liao had written a very clever script that was filled with many lines that had great comic potential, but for some strange reason, many of the lines just fell completely flat and failed to generate the merest of reactions.

Of course, there were some which hit the mark, but these were few and far between.

The misses far outnumbered the hits.

As mentioned, I was informed that the lines had received tremendous reception at the readings, so I guess it would make an interesting study for Edgar and the team to analyse why the script just didn’t work when fully-staged.

Was it the delivery? Was it the casting choices? Was it the set design?

It must have been due to something.

I remember looking around me and thinking “Is anyone else getting any of this? Why isn’t anyone laughing? I can literally see the lines just whizzing over our heads.”

Elsewhere, I felt the heavy use of Singlish and excessive swearing could have been toned down, as it got on my nerves after awhile.

I don’t know if it was just me, but I found it hard to empathise with Ma (played by Catherine Sng), and thus, I didn’t find myself being emotionally-invested in the story at all.

It could have been because the character was a tad over-played, and thus I wasn’t so quick to embrace her.

In fact, the more appropriate word to use would be “irked”.

The play made an attempt to flesh out the background stories of the majority of characters through some clever crafting and linkages, thus giving many of the characters further dimension.

I like how even Claude Girardi was given a touching background story of his own, which further enforced the theme of “finding one’s identity” in the play.

That was a nice touch.

The link between Theresa and the drunken woman was also a clever device, albeit slightly predictable.

However, it seemed to me like the play tried to spend too much time on too many characters in the story, and thus lost its focus of the main protagonist, whom I assume is Ma.

In conclusion, I would have to be honest and say that I didn’t enjoy the play very much.

It’s a pity I didn’t attend “Theatre Idols”, because if I had, my impression of the play may have been different, knowing well the full comic potential of the play based on the readings.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. ilkosa permalink
    October 28, 2010 9:37 am

    hmm…seems like a casting/directing issue rather than the script. Probably at the reading, people were more focused at the content spoken while at the staging, it was different, or what was envisioned didn’t get played out.

  2. Jeremy permalink*
    October 28, 2010 9:47 am

    Yup, I think that’s exactly the explanation for it.

  3. Edgar permalink
    January 19, 2011 2:04 pm

    hi Jeremy, just came across this and would like to thank you for the thoughtful comments, and will take them into consideration in a future overhaul of the script.

  4. Jeremy permalink*
    January 19, 2011 2:39 pm

    Thanks for leaving a reply, Edgar. All the best in your future endeavours!


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