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Living Rooms

August 7, 2012

Event: “Living Rooms” presented by Take Off Productions
Venue: Play Den @ The Arts House
Run: 4th – 5th Aug 2012

A Room With A View

It’s heartening to hear of such sprightly activity going on these days, especially amongst the younger generation of theatre enthusiasts.

Budding playwright-director Christopher Fok, who had recently directed “Paper Men” at Teater Artistik, and who was also acting in “Living Rooms”, alerted me to this production and asked me to come watch.

“Living Rooms” is an evening of three plays by three talented young playwrights – “Inheritance” by Lee Jing Yan, “The Untitled Funeral Play” by Luke Vijay Somasundram (who incidentally was the playwright for “Paper Men”), and “Postgrads” by Joel Tan.

It is presented by Take Off Productions, which is a non-profit informal drama group of Singapore theatre enthusiasts in their 20’s.

Many of the cast and crew in “Living Rooms” are NUS students, and the raw sense of eagerness and enthusiasm in these young performers (think “The Velveteen Rabbit” and “City Night Songs”) is something that never ceases to enthrall me.

It must be said also that many in attendance on Sunday evening were probably school friends of the cast and crew, which resulted in fantastic audience rapport the entire evening as well.

“Inheritance”, the shortest play of the lot at less than half an hour, portrays a meeting between siblings Eliza and Ben after years of separation.

The viewer is given the task of piecing the backstory together as the playwright drops subtle clues along the way through the siblings’ interactions.

Towards the end of the play, the playwright hints at a possibility of a sexual relationship between the older sister and the younger brother in their youth (unbeknownst to Ben), but this strain is never fully developed and the play ends shortly after.

“Inheritance” felt to me like an etude-tableaux (to borrow a term from classical music) in the way it resembled more of a “mood piece”, whereby there didn’t seem to be any real dramatic arc, but rather, the entire piece sought to capture a particular sentiment or paint a particular picture.

“The Untitled Funeral Play” was the only comedy of the night, and represented a drastic shift in mood and dynamics from the first play.

I liked the paciness of the script, and Luke Vijay Somasundram displays a good understanding of the farce genre in the way he places his lovable caricatures in such remarkably awkward situations, in a manner that was entertaining but yet not too unbelievable.

The play was definitely funny, but in the midst of the hilarity Luke’s wit shines through in how he manages to also slip in a sly dig or two at bureaucracy, as well as his commentary on whether funerals are ultimately for the dead or for the living.

The final play of the evening was “Postgrads”, written and directed by Joel Tan, who was also the playwright for W!ld Rice’s “Family Outing” last year.

“Postgrads” is an intense play surrounding the lives of four PhD student roommates and how they come to terms with the impending departure of one of them, Hui, who has suddenly decided to throw in the towel and call it quits on his post-graduate pursuits.

It starts off with Hui slowly and meticulously packing his books into cartons, and what follows is a series of difficult, heart-to-heart interrogative conversations between the other three roommates and Hui.

Joel balances the character mix in his play well with the use of the painfully pragmatic Sarah, the idealistic Ming and the sulking, pessimistic Kevin.

In the end, Hui takes his leave, leaving the three of them standing there watching as the door closes behind him, and you could just feel the sudden vast vacuum enter their lives at that point.

The only issue I had was that the play seemed to always be in danger of meandering, and once again, as with “Family Outing”, Joel seems to have had written in one scene too many at the end, because many of us in the audience had thought the play had genuinely ended a few scenes before the end.

Credit to Take Off Productions and what they’re doing with productions such as “Living Rooms”, and I only wish they’d consider doing these more frequently than once every two years!

It’s so encouraging to see so much young talent in local theatre, and it only augurs well for the future of our theatre scene if more of such young talents are given the opportunity and avenue to do what they love best.

These plays may not be the most polished of theatre works, both in terms of the source material and the way they’re directed and performed, but therein lies the whole point – to nurture, cultivate and hone young talent in enabling them to blossom into competent professionals in due time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2012 11:09 pm

    A more encouraging review, I adore!

    To me, a good review is one that is edifying, giving praises when necessary and pointing the shortcomings without destroying one’s esteem.
    I like the title which you have given, “A Room with a View”, a good one!

    Coincidentally, it has the same title of E.M Forster’s famous novel. Are you awared? 😉

    • Jeremy permalink*
      August 7, 2012 11:41 pm

      Hi ST,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. Yup, I was fully aware of that. =)

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