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July 4, 2012

Event: “BOOM” by Sight Lines Productions
Venue: DBS Arts Centre
Run: 29th June – 8th July 2012

Home, Where I Know I Must Be

It’s been barely two months since their debut production “Trainstopping”, but Sight Lines Productions picks up exactly where it left off with its sophomore effort “BOOM”.

“BOOM”, a play written by Jean Tay, was first staged by the SRT in 2008 and directed by Tracie Pang.

It is also currently an “O” and “N” level literature text for secondary school, which explains the large numbers of students in attendance for this show.

Director Derrick Chew has come up with a number of nifty touches in this latest staging, and Sight Lines is fast-becoming known for its highly creative and original ideas.

Firstly, the programmes are a joy to behold in the way they resemble a newspaper rather than a regular theatre programme booklet, not only in appearance but in the way the content is cleverly presented as well.

The set design by Wong Chee Wai, which resembled a giant tombstone albeit with large reflective panels in the centre, was ingenious in the way it allowed for the various components to be used for various purposes, at times being the living room of the old apartment, at times being the apartment’s backyard, and at times being the office of the Ministry of Land via the upper level.

Oh, and the way the props seemed to automatically slide effortlessly on and off the stage, the way they do in a big-budget Broadway musical, was highly impressive too.

The production is held firmly together by Jean Tay’s remarkable script, which depicts two parallel stories – one of Tan Tiong Boon’s (Andrew Lua) relationship with his mother Mdm Ong (Fanny Kee) and how she still clings stubbornly to the old apartment despite his constant pleadings to sell it via en-bloc, and the other of how civil servant Jeremiah Dhillon (Erwin Shah Ismail) attempts to persuade a corpse (Vincent Tee) to move out of its current grave site.

The script was eloquent and managed to tug at a few heartstrings in me, and I was moved at a number of moments in the play, such as when it was revealed that the reason why Mdm Ong refused to move was because deep down she had always been waiting for her husband to come back home.

It also clearly brings out the ever-pertinent theme of the cost of urban renewal and the intangible losses we are made to bear as a result of it.

Fanny Kee, reprising the same role from 2008, was undoubtedly the outstanding performer of the show in the way she managed to bring out the obstinance in the character, yet harbouring secret hopes and anxieties in her which are eventually brought to light in the end.

Andrew Lua started out tentatively, but eventually grew comfortably into his role.

Erwin Shah Ismail played the role of straight-laced civil servant to a tee, while Amanda Tee and relative-newcomer Benjamin Kheng deserve credit for juggling a variety of roles competently.

It was also nice to see Engie Ho on stage and I particularly enjoyed her portrayal of the typically heartless Ministry director.

“BOOM” is an endearing play that speaks right to the heart of many Singaporeans young and old, and in the clever hands of Sight Lines, you’ll find yourself being treated to a story which stirs both the heart and soul.

It offers plenty of food for thought, and makes us re-examine our at times senseless obsession with urban redevelopment and renewal.

What price progress?

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