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For Better Or For Worse

March 21, 2013

ForBetterOrForWorse1Event: “For Better or For Worse” by Checkpoint Theatre
Venue: Drama Centre Black Box
Run: 20th – 24th March 2013

To Have and To Hold

Never has there been a time where the notion of the sacred institution known as marriage been a more intimidating conundrum than it is today in modern day Singapore.

On the one hand, we see the growing trend of more and more Singaporeans choosing to remain single even as they enter into their mid-30s, and on the other hand, we also see a steady rise in local divorce rates, not to mention the many high profile cases of marital infidelity being splashed across our front pages every other week.

What exactly is this whole marriage shindig all about anyway?

Is it truly the Hollywood-style “happily ever after” fantasy we’ve been led to believe all our lives, or is it merely a series of never-ending daily struggles that drives a person to the brink of insanity?

The answer usually lies somewhere in between, and budding playwright Faith Ng attempts to shed some light and explore the pertinent issues surrounding the complexities that arise when a man and a woman somehow decide to take a vow and spend the rest of their lives together, and maybe produce a kid or two while they’re at it.

Faith Ng is of course well-known for her debut piece “wo(men)”, the full-length play which won her a nomination for Best Original Script at the 2011 Life! Theatre Awards.

“For Better or For Worse”, her latest full-length work, is a 100-minute play directed by Claire Wong, portraying the marriage life of Gerald (played by Julius Foo) and Swen (played by Jean Ng).

It chronicles the highs and lows of their often tumultuous relationship, jumping back and forth in time between the current state where their 24-year-old daughter Samantha is about to get engaged, to back in the early days when they first got together.

Theirs is no ordinary relationship, with enough trials and tribulations along the way to test even the strongest of wills, but then again, rare is the couple who can confidently say that they have never encountered trials and tribulations of their own.

One particular bone of contention that seems to constantly gnaw away at the marriage of Gerald and Swen is the accidental miscarriage of their second child, due to the fact that neither party was aware that Swen was actually pregnant at that point in time.

Their marriage is often a contentious one, and Faith shows great skill in depicting the delicate love-hate balance within the relationship (although a number of the verbal fights were shockingly vulgar).

She is particularly gifted in capturing the Singaporean slice of life while portraying ordinary relationships in their rawest and most relatable form, and at the same time bringing in highly pertinent local issues such as casino gambling, soccer betting, the high costs of getting married, retrenchment, giving tuition, mistresses from China, family squabbles and so on.

One particular scene which deserves honourable mention is the scene where Swen and Gerald start off by happily watching the ending of a soccer match together, which leads to Swen placing a bet against Gerald in jest, which leads to Swen winning her bet, which eventually leads to a full blown fight between the two of them.

I thought the way in which the entire scene was constructed and how it was carried through to the eventual climax was beautifully done.

The chemistry factor between the two actors was extremely high, although it is Jean who truly elevates the play with her outstanding performance.

However, just like in any relationship, “For Better or For Worse” is not without its share of shortcomings.

There didn’t seem to be a weighty enough overarching plot to the play, which made it seem more like a series of sketches which tried to paint you the portrait of Gerald and Swen’s marriage.

And as such, as the play wore on things started to get a bit tedious as the viewer was not so sure if the play was necessarily moving towards an eventual destination, and neither did the play seem to build to any discernible form of climax towards the end.

Also, there were some threads in the play which seemed to beg to be explored but were unfortunately not given adequate attention.

One such example is the theme of Swen’s seemingly firm belief in God in contrast to Gerald’s somewhat nebulous faith.

I thought this particular thread showed some promise at the start of the play, but was somehow not fully explored in the end.

Another is perhaps the aspect of Gerald’s mother and how she used to play such a devastating impact on the couple in their younger days, and how their attitudes towards her had changed as she grew older.

This device of Gerald’s mother could perhaps have been used to greater effect to draw the couple closer towards the end.

Truth be told, at the end of the play I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of the marriage of Gerald and Swen.

Part of me wanted things to work out, but there was also a part of me which wasn’t too optimistic about the chances of their marriage surviving the long term.

There seemed to be one too many unresolved issues within the marriage, and I wasn’t sure if by the end of the play they were any closer to resolving them.

But maybe that was the whole point of the play – not to provide any easy answers, but to shed greater light on the intricacies and complexities of the marriage institution.

And Faith Ng has certainly done so to great effect, giving us an insightful glimpse into what real married life might look like.

It certainly isn’t a pretty picture, but then again this isn’t a Hollywood movie.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2013 1:58 pm

    Wow, record man! 4 reviews in a row, I’m very impressed, haha! 😉

    This particular piece have definitely swept off my feet because it is so well written with great analysis and valuable feedback! I have enjoyed reading it entirely!

    Keep It Up, Buttons! (^-<)V

    • Jeremy permalink*
      March 21, 2013 2:09 pm

      Thanks very much for reading and for leaving such kind comments, ST. =)

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