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Firecrackers & Bombshells

January 16, 2014

FirecrackersBombshells1(picture via Playground Entertainment)

Event: “Firecrackers & Bombshells” by Playground Entertainment
Venue: Play Den @ The Arts House
Run: 15th – 19th Jan 2014

Boom, Even Brighter Than The Moon

Inaugural productions are always a wonderful thing to be a part of as it signifies the birth of a fantastic new theatre venture and possibly the start of many great adventures to come.

After witnessing Tim Garner Productions’s inaugural production last week at the DBS Arts Centre, Playground Entertainment – yet another brand new local theatre company – presents a new play written by their own artistic director Jacke Chye entitled “Firecrackers & Bombshells”, directed by Jalyn Han.

“Firecrackers & Bombshells” is set during the CNY festive period, and it is a play that hits close to home as it details the various quirks and idiosyncrasies inherent in many a local family, and how the intra-familial complexities and politics all unwittingly come to a head at the annual reunion dinner.

Although the play wasn’t an outright farce, there were strong elements of farce being present at various exaggerated points in the play, especially at the reunion dinner scene in the second act, as well as the part about Da Sao being able to mask her identity from everyone so effectively.

The play was generally kept light-hearted and comical throughout, and Karen Tan (by far the most established actor among the entire cast) was the beneficiary of many of the best lines, although you often wonder if she makes the lines better than they are.

The “elders” in the cast, namely Michael Tan, Beatrice Chien and Dorothy Khoo all did a marvellous job playing Pa, Ma and Ah Yee respectively, and you have to give it to them for putting their all into their roles.

Although the aims of the play were apparent enough – to bring out the themes of acceptance, forgiveness and family values – the tone of the play was a bit confusing at times.

You weren’t exactly sure if it was trying to be an outright farce comedy or a tender, heart-warming play, and oftentimes it was a curious mixture of both.

And while credit has to be given to Jacke for working out all the various plot intricacies and adding in a fair bit of unexpected twists and turns, the play felt far too long-winded and definitely could have been trimmed from its more-than-two-hour duration.

Moreover, a lot of the lines felt far too direct and lacked a sense of subtlety which would have made the play even more effective.

Also, I felt that the was an inherent flaw in the structuring of the play as I honestly thought that the end of the first act was the end of the entire play, as everything came to a head at the end of the first act, with all the deep dark family secrets being thrown out into the open, that you felt as if you had already witnessed the absolute high point in the show dramatically and wondered why the play would need to continue any further.

Playground Entertainment has certainly chosen the most opportune time to stage a play with a distinct CNY backdrop, and I doubt there’s any other play in town like this at the moment.

There definitely are some nice moments and some great lines in this delightful romp, and Karen Tan probably elevates the performance of the entire cast by that much thanks to her sheer experience, energy and stage presence.

Congrats to Jacke Chye and the team on their bold new venture, and we look forward to greater things ahead.

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