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“Pull Up” by One Man Riot Productions

September 9, 2015
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PullUp1Event: “Pull Up” by One Man Riot Productions
Venue: Goodman Arts Centre Black Box
Run: 2nd – 5th Sept 2015

The Danger Zone

The tragic and mysterious events of last year’s MH370 disappearance still continue to puzzle laypersons and civil aviation experts alike, and it is on this very topic that One Man Riot has chosen to stage their debut production.

Written by playwright Thomas Lim, and directed by both Thomas and Nur Khairina, the play is set in the humble confines of the Goodman Arts Centre Black Box.

The company is, after all, a fairly new one with limited resources, and even in its programme booklet it acknowledges that it is “not one of the big boys”, and it “probably will never have big budgets and expensive sets”.

Nonetheless, the production team makes the most of what it has, and you can see that extra effort was made to create as authentic an experience as possible, from the delightful show tickets resembling boarding passes, the well printed programme booklets, the “air steward” and “air stewardess” ushering the audience into their seats, and the simple set of two rows of small lights on the floor which immediately remind you of an airport runway.

The term “pull up” in aviation parlance (I had to look this up) refers to an abort of a landing attempt at a very low altitude, close to the runway, while the play “Pull Up” tells the story of commercial pilot Captain Lim Zhi Wei (Milon Goh) and the events which led to his decision to crash a plane full of passengers.

There is also Captain Teo Wei Xuan (Zenda Tan), a former cadet trainee with Captain Lim back in flight school, who no longer flies but has to struggle to handle the media from the ground as the airline’s main spokesperson.

To make matters worse for her, Captain Lim actually makes a final phonecall to her to say his last words just before he crashes the plane, and this fact is uncovered by Investigator Chong (Mitchell Fang), whose job is to make sense of the entire tragedy.

It is later revealed that Captain Lim, Captain Teo and another cadet trainee by the name of Captain Goh Wee Keong (Wee Xuan Yi) used to be buddies in flight school, but an accident on their final training exercise together led to Captain Goh crashing his plane fatally.

This death hit Captain Lim particularly hard, and he has never been able to come to terms with the death of his close buddy.

Playwright Thomas Lim shows great familiarity with the intricacies and terminology of aviation, as is evident from the very realistic cockpit scenes depicting taking off and cruising at altitude, as well as the scene depicting the final flying exercise between the three cadets.

The production team also employs clever use of replica models to recreate the flight paths of the three planes during the final exercise.

While the play never makes any explicit mention of Malaysia Airlines (it creates a fictitious airline called “Straits Air” instead), it is fairly apparent to anyone viewing it that the entire story is a nod to what happened with MH370 last year, and offers a possible answer to how and why things might have occurred.

Mitchell Fang is particularly outstanding as the tenacious investigator with a sensitive side, while Zenda Tan represents the emotional core of the play in trying to bravely soldier on with her professional duty, yet both carrying a torch for Captain Lim all these years and knowing the full extent of his trauma at having had to deal with the loss of his best friend.

What started out as 15-minute play for a secondary school has eventually morphed into a full-length play, and it’s truly heartening to see One Man Riot come up with such an enlightening piece as their debut production.

It is never easy to put up a play of any scale, and the team can take great encouragement to see their debut piece as well as their theatrical aspirations finally take flight.

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