"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

"When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained." - Edward R. Murrow


Something Angsty, Something Saucy, Something Poignant, Something Absurd

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Review: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
University Scholars Club, 23rd May 2009, 3pm

The idea of putting up a Quadruple Bill was interesting; even Double Bills aren't usually linked, so linking four plays together is fun.

Plus, since what unifies the four plays is a wedding (the four plays are set before, during and after it), there is a lingering tension animating the audience and they wonder when (or if) the ball is going to drop.

Keeping the keystone that is the unifier - the weddding ceremony itself - offstage gives the audience blue balls which keeps them lusting for more until the end.

Indeed, the fact that the bride and groom are never seen onstage together might be a good thing. The fact that the most effective love scene between Anakin and Padmé in the Star Wars prequels was when the two were not in the same room spoke to the utter lack of chemistry between the two.

In this production, having the bride and groom never be onstage together lets their angst and frustrations be a monument to their love, with chemistry (or lack thereof) between the two actors never being an issue.

Perhaps my only grouse about the concept is that the plays do not follow the sequence in the saying: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue. It wouldn't have been hard to jiggle the titles to fit the order.

Something Old
Laremy Lee

Official synopsis [Ed: Synopses as on programme booklet, not the website]: "The aisle has been swept, the guests are seated, and the ceremony is about to begin, once the little hitch with the bride is settled. Just when everything seems about to go according to plan, two uninvited guests arrive, thwarting the bridegroom, Benjamin. In between stalling for time and wanting to ensure that the wedding goes smoothly, Benjamin is left on his own to explain as best he can why he has not invited these two guests – a particularly difficult task, especially when they turn out to be his own parents."

Evaluation: This play was quite standard, and had "hall play" written all over it.

There were angsty people interacting, each with their own particular issues, and we also had the usual freeze-time sequences, with each character making a declamation in the spotlight. The only thing needed to make it a Channel 8 drama was a crying scene.

Oh, and there was also the healthy dollop of Singlish thrown in for good measure.

All in all, very 1990s.

Something Borrowed
Christine Chong, Leonard Choo & Lucas Ho

Official synopsis: "With every minute that passes by, Rachel is one step closer to marrying the man who seems to complete her life. But as the moment of truth draws nearer, time seems to slow down to a crawl, and she is left with a barrage of conflicting inner voices that reaffirm, taunt, doubt and question the wisdom of the steps she is taking. Will she succumb? And how can one ever know if anything is truly forever?"

Evaluation: In the second play, if you're slow (like me) you wonder why the bride and her suspiciously-similarly-dressed bridesmaids are engaging in frivolous smalltalk when they should be preparing for the former's big day.

Only when the reverie is interrupted by someone checking in on the bride is it explicitly revealed that she has multiple personality disorder.

So we are taken through the bride's internal monologue: her hopes, her fears and her history. Should they get drunk? Will it hurt? What does a lingam look like? What if he's too small? Should she lie back and think of England?

Neurotic as she is, we eventually find out that (surprise surprise) she has been lying to herself about her sexual history. Another person described by my aphorism: Men lie to other people - 'I love you'. Women lie to other people AND themselves - 'I love him'.

With this revelation, her 4 selves are reconciled and she is finally ready for her big moment.

Moral of the story: we need comprehensive sex education in schools.

While the premise of this play is not all that novel either, the execution was well-done, with a witty script (even if sometimes beyond the audience) that answered the question most men (and not a few women) spend their time wondering: what are women thinking, and what do they really want? With the conclusion of this play, we come one step closer to answering the question that plagued Freud to his dying day.

Something New
Lucas Ho

Official synopsis: "The parents of the bride are estranged, but Anna, the bride's mother, has come up to look for John, the bride's father, who had slunk away after walking his daughter down the aisle. She has come to get him to go downstairs because his daughter wants him to sing at the wedding reception. What follows is a meditation on married life; the joys, the pains, the highs the lows, and the way they have to get through the night."

Evaluation: Here, we see what happens when a marriage goes bad. How the promise and heady excitement of youth can sour when reality comes into play. Why you really need to go for marriage counselling. And why an outdated institution is unsuitable for modern soci... Nevermind.

As the estranged husband and wife exchange barbs, pouring out their personal vendettas and baggage, each serving as the other's travel agent for a guilt trip, we see what happens when you marry after a whirlwind 4 month courtship (fomented by their being stranded after a barbeque).

Yet, underneath all this bitterness, some green shoots can be seen, as the whispered promise of reconciliation hangs in the air: he still loves her (and so does she, ever-so-grudgingly(. We then witness one of the more subtle seduction scenes in recent theatre history as the husband does a decent a cappella rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight"

As the lights dim, we are left wondering if what we glimpsed ever-so-briefly was green shoots - or brown leaves. Hopefully, their marriage is more salvageable than the world economy.

Refreshingly, this play also provides us with policy implications: the Government needs to have more late night bus services so boys and girls aren't stranded on East Coast Park overnight and are in danger of entering an ill-advised relationship. Either that or they need to ship SDU people in for overnight activities.

Something Blue
Christine Chong

Official synopsis: "The couple has kissed, exchanged vows, and driven off in wedded bliss. Elizabeth, the lucky lady who caught the wedding bouquet, is sitting by herself at the table, enjoying the last bit of her dessert. The wedding is winding down, the music is slow, and everyone is happy. Or so it seems. A challenger for the bouquet arrives on the scene and demands that she surrender it based on "reasonable" grounds. Will Elizabeht give in and give it up, or will she fight for her rights?"

Evaluation: The last play is the most original of the four, with nothing to do with marriage or bitter inter-personal relationships. Though neurosis makes an appearance because, hey, normal people are boring, aren't they?

I have to admit, the synopsis spoiled me. The leadup to the unusual (even if decent) proposal was perfectly played to trick the audience into thinking that there was going to be a very bad pickup attempt.

The desperation and absurdity of Bryan's (the challenger) attempt to claim the bouquet for himself, his bitchiness when rebuffed, Elizabeth's spite in denying him it and finally her faintly-amused yet mocking contempt in conceding it to him make for a ludicrousness that is almost Monty Python-esque.

As the odd couple exit the stage (having forsaken the bouquet for a lucky passer-by), we see John coming by and picking it up. And so the final comedy ends with a promise to redeem a tragedy.

All in all, everyone has issues, so we can foresee that this will be either be a short and exasperating marriage or a long and torturous one, and that the kids will grow up traumatised and dysfunctional like their parents.

Also, I hope, for their and everyone's sakes, that none of the characters ever get married

Final verdict: On an ordinal basis, I'd rate them (in descending order) 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 1st.
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