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On This Emerald Hill

September 20, 2011

Event: On This Emerald Hill
Venue: Chamber @ The Arts House
Run: 14th Sept – 1st Oct 2011 (selected dates)

You could call this one hugely impressive juggling act.

“On This Emerald Hill” is a monologue that features the wildly talented writer-actor Jonathan Lim attempting to do a number of things all at the same time: a) single-handedly playing at least four characters on stage, and b) merging two landmark Singapore plays into what might be loosely-termed a “sequel”.

Life! reviewer Adeline Chia calls it a “valiant attempt”, and it’s hard to view it any differently.

If we thought Karen Tan’s Herculean effort in Chong Tze Chien’s “To Whom It May Concern” monologue could not possibly have been topped, then I guess we might have been a bit too quick to pass judgement.

It was mesmerising seeing Jonathan Lim portray both Emily Gan and Julian Ngan, engaging in rapid-fire dialogue for extended periods of time, all while managing to skillfully retain the idiosyncrasies of both characters.

The way he slips and slides between characters so quickly and so masterfully, you could have sworn there was more than one human being on stage.

If anything, one should catch this performance simply for the sheer genius of Jonathan Lim’s performance.

That being said, “On This Emerald Hill” is probably more for the theatre aficionados than the average layperson, as it requires a certain familiarity with the Stella Kon play as well as the works of Kuo Pao Kun in order to be fully appreciated.

Those who are familiar with them would feel right at home with the portrayal of the two main characters picking up where they left off, and would also love the many in-joke references to Kuo Pao Kun’s other plays such as “Mama Looking for Her Cat”, “The Silly Little Girl and the Funny Old Tree” and “No Parking on Odd Days”.

Perhaps “mashup” might be the best way to term “On This Emerald Hill”, because it essentially borrows heavily from both plays, but more so from the Kuo Pao Kun one.

In terms of themes and ideas, you could probably say that this play doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, apart from highlighting the fact that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

It didn’t seem to say anything more than what had already been said by its two predecessors.

Adeline Chia says that “the play feels more like a humble homage to two well-loved plays than a creature with its own life”, and I completely agree.

Therefore, I’m not sure if “sequel” is the right term to call it…or if the term “postlude” might perhaps be more appropriate.

Nonetheless, one cannot take away the fact that Jonathan Lim manages to take our breath away with his amazing juggling act, while never once dropping the ball.

Remaining show dates are 27th, 29th, 30th Sept, and 1st Oct.

Tickets can be purchased at (here).

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