Tuesday, June 24, 2008

By the way, I tried to say "It was horrible."

Last Saturday I made a cross-country journey to the East side of our country to catch Monsoon, a theatre production by Yellow Chair Productions, the group lead by one of my juniors in Poly, Shaiful.

It seemed promising: nice, professional looking poster. Cute girl. A simple storyline to look forward to: girl meets boy, they fall in love. No heavy concepts to swallow on a nice Saturday night out with old friends.

My verdict after watching? As the blog title said: It was horrible.

There, I've said it, honest truth, swearing on George Carlin's grave (RIP, you funny man). I'm sorry, Shaiful, there's no other way to put it. This review, coming from me, doesn't matter whether I've not dabbled in theatre in such a long time. This review, written not as a friend with nothing but praises, but a member of the audience.

Now allow me to explain my displeasure.

The girl, allergic to the sun, runs freely in the open, only when the monsoon seasion arrive.Where's the logic in this?

And so the 15 year old Sophelia is allergic to the sun, and only "run freely in the open" when the monsoon season arrive.

Erm hello, I'm not some science student and never will be lah, but SRSLY, from what I know in my almost 24 years of existence in Singapore, the concept of Day & Night is still in the works for Planet Earth, even during the Monsoon season! The sun will still continue shining over the pouring rain and dark clouds and what have you, so no way, NO friggin way would a girl supposedly allergic to the sun be allowed to run freely in wide-open fields when the Monsoon season come. But the girl dies at the end of the show, so.... it could have been all that running she was doing in the pelting rain.

The lead characters talk a damn lot in the rain

Sophelia meets Adrian, 15 years of age, aspiring weatherman, who plays with his handmade Anemometer in the same wide-open field as Sophelia, the same place where they talked, played badminton, and fall in love eventually with each other's quirkiness: Sophelia's home-schooled and doesn't have any friends. Adrian's the geek adorning the obligatory geeky glasses. Everything supposedly happened in the horrible weather.

SRSLY, have you guys ever tried having a conversation with a friend IN THE POURING RAIN?!: your hair gets into your eyes, your clothes get soaked heavy, you get damn short-fused because you are a Singaporean that carries a million electronic gadgets that happen to be not waterproof (camera/handphone/mp3player/laptop/vibrator), you have to SHOUT to your friend due to all that pitter patter going on around you... you should get my idea by now. But our two leads happily continue chattering for a majority of the 2 and a 1/2 hour play (yes, it was that long a torture). Unless we're living in some Bollywood, Kollywood or Taiwanese drama, nobody do talking in the rain, okay? Or trying to be the Punjabi Sexy.

Let's just say, I'm all wrong about what I saw: you can't exactly re-create a rain scene in a live theatre performance. "They could be underneath a sheltered place! Or covered walkway!" you could argue. Aye, come on, tell me lah, who will go and play with his wind-speed measuring device in the shelter, huh?!

And another one. "They could be meeting each other at night, what!" Let's go back to the concept of Day & Night, shall we? You mean the home-schooled Sophelia wasn't taught Science, har? If Nightfall occurs every single day, why the fuck does Sophelia only come out during the Monsoon season when she could have came out anyday during night-time?

Everything could be condensed into perhaps an hour

2hrs 30 mins was about how long we sat there: the length of a Bollywood movie, without the song and dance sequence. And in a live theatre show, you are not blessed with a device called "the remote control". There's no "fast-forward" button, you see, to skip through really forgettable parts.

Act 2: apparently Adrian's father died in Act 1, and it was revealed at the start of Act 2 on how he died. A bloody long monologue by Adrian's Mother & her eulogy, dedicated to a character that hardly formed an impression other than the role being taken by the rather hamsum Taufik. A bloody long monologue, that, if taken out of the play, wouldn't affect the storyline at all, other than giving the girl who was acting as the Mother a chance to drama-mama-wayang-wayang abit.

What else can you remove? Remove the cheesy pop-culture references (Rihana's Umbrella). Remove Adrian's parents: their characters are pointless & doesn't move the story forward. Remove the guy that hangs around with Adrian, because a "popular guy" like him would never hang around with a geek like Adrian. Remove Sophelia's doctor: yes Shaiful, you would like to have a small part in every play you direct, but only Quentin Tarantino does it perfectly in Pulp Fiction as Jimmy. Remove that big fat guy (sorry,Aishah) that is supposedly the future Adrian, because squeezing such cheap laughs from us doesn't fucking help improve the show in the end.

Kill your Sound & Lighting Crew, lah
Yes, we can save alot of time if we could have a faster fade-out in changing the scenes. And Sound, make your music "fade-out", don't cut completely. It's irritating. And since the play is called Monsoon, I didn't hear a drop of rain, but I have aplently of thunder instead.

And yes of course, she died.
Sophelia died. Yes, of course she died. Somebody/bodies in Shaiful plays always die. But we don't know why. It's not explained. But of course when we watch theatre, we're expected to make educated guesses or come out with our own conclusions: the girl has XP and she died from all that accidental exposure to the UV Rays. Or a heartbreak. I don't know. And now I don't really care.

The Saving Grace
Praise teh Ceiling Cat, we have The Saving Grace: Chong Yi Han, one of the playwrights, stole the show, acting as Sophelia's grandmother. Clearly, he wrote for himself the best lines as well: how very sneaky of him.

Other than that, there were some cheesy lines in the script which had the audiences roaring with laughter, and me going "this is so lame" and Audrey going "Yes, you did have a lame leg" and Joyce going "now Rashad has one" and roared in laughter in our own little show at the back of the theatre.


Okay, fine. Let's be forgiving, and look at the whole picture: the guys that put this up are a buncha youths. They don't get paid to do this. They apparently rehearsed in three weeks, whilst some of them serving NS somemore. I only paid SGD$8 to watch this. No way should I expect it to be some professional theatre stuff, right? Not quite true. I've been to school productions and gone "wow, this is good!"

And Shaiful has been doing Yellow Chair Productions for almost 2 years now, but I'm still watching stuff which is of the same quality & cheesiness as I've seen from two years ago with Tainted Flower.

Okay done. Now hit me with Hate Mail.


Lecter said...

Hi JY,

I'm not quite sure what to say really. Haha.

Scept for 2 things.

1. I never intended to take up the doctor role and I'm over the phase of wanting to take up a small role in my shows ala Tarantino. Someone pulled out, I had to step in. Period.

2. I casted Yihan for the Grandma's role after the play was written.

But thanks for the lengthy review. It serves as a reminder to my team and I that we have to constantly improve ourselves and that not all of us share the same liking for a certain cup of tea.

And I'm sorry you guys had to resort to having your own little show at the back. Perhaps the next one could be less cheesy and better quality by your standards :)

JY said...

Thanks, Shai. You've been involved in theatre much more than I've done for the past few years, and how you've carried on after graduation have been admirable.

Continue improving, and someday I hope to see a breakthrough production from you guys : )

Anonymous said...

Hi Jiayuan,

glad to know that you are well prepared for hate mail, cos it shows that you are fully aware that whatever that you were going to write was thought of and planned very, very carefully.

As a first time writer for a play, I have to say that this has been a challenge for me to do something that would be put out for ppl to comment or criticise. Therefore, I was prepared to receive not so positive comments abt the production as best as I can.

However, the thing about criticism for something is that, whatever faults there may be for this production, criticisms should come in the form of being CONSTRUCTIVE, not RUDE and INCONSIDERATE.
I took personal insult in the fact that you called my boyfriend the "big fat guy", and then in the very same line saying "sorry, Aishah". How is that suppose to appease me in any way? Furthermore, there were sprinkles of cuss words like "fucking --" in some of your sentences, which I feel, if you had any thoughts about giving CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISMS, weren't necessary at all.

And like what Shaiful has said, he never intended to take up the doctor role in the first place. There were situations that happened in the course of casting people for the production etc that you, as a member of the audience, would not be aware of. So i suggest, before putting up some clever comparison to a big-wig Hollywood director, to know where we're coming from as a small, amateur youth theatre group who has but only a small pool of actors who were able to commit to this project.

Rest assured that you have indeed stirred up at least one person who has painstakingly contributed to materialize this dream, however illogical and impractical the story may be to you. It must suck to be living too long in reality huh?

Yazid Jalil said...

Oh come on Aishah darling, you cannot fault people who have no imagination and lacks a sense of being tactful.
She can say whatever she wants cos she can.

Am I not right JiaYuan?

PS: And yes JY, i do think u are rude. But thats the trend nowadays aint it? Hope it doesnt become a habit. bad for your health deary.

JY said...

Aishah: I'm sorry... when it said "big fat guy", I was referring to a character in the play, and never meant to mock your boyfriend. Thus the "sorry Aishah" thing at the back.

Yes, truth: I'll never know what goes on behind the scene of what I watched. If Shai hasn't informed me I wouldn't have known. But we always compare things with what we are familiar with. Or pass off comments like "she sounds like a mixture of Duffy and Britney Spears" or "Guy Ritchie tries to hard to be a Quentin".

Critics exist, to "make the scene better". This is just one of the not-so-positive ones. I'm sure there's loads of positive ones around to "balance-things-out".

I was writing plays (... well still am, but not as much), and I know how liberating it is to see it being performed. And I have my share of horrible criticism too. Hope to see something better from you in the future, Aishah.

Yazid: Yes, rude. Yes, I'm a very angry person. Yes, it's a trend these days: people are not allowed to be "angry" anymore outside their blogs. This is just me SCREAMING.

..big fat guy... said...

When i first heard that "Monsoon" got a bad review, I wasn't quite surprised. It is normal for any production to receive any number of positive and negative reviews. Reviews are important, even more important are the negative ones. Especially for a young theater house like YCP. They help the group to improve on their quality of work and hopefully produce an even better show the next time. YCP should be glad that there are reviews being written about their productions. Seeing that these guys work really hard on their projects, most often sacrificing time at school, off days in NS, time with family and annual leave days, reviews help to put all their hard work in perspective. A gauge of how well they did and what parts could be improved on.

That being said, I think reviews should not be used to personally attack people. Saying hurtful things about directors and playwrights, accusing them (yes accuse is the perfect word) of things that they never did or intended to do, using expletives in lieu of other perfectly usable adjectives and attacking the story from top down, these are things where when read, hurt.

Saying what you did and the way you did it hurt everyone involved. Some may never say it out maybe because friendships are concerned and they do not want to put strain on their friendships. Some may feel angry at you. Smoe may even HATE you. But there could be some who think that they did not do a good enough job, lose confidence and never want to attempt such a project again.

Do you really think that your review would help this production in any way possible? Did you really think about what you were going to write before you actually did it?


oh and im comfortable with my size and weight. I don't really know you but i think you are a lesser human being for ever saying that. There can be no apologies for such a crude statement.

"..that big, fat guy.."

Anonymous said...

doesn't look like constructive criticism to me...

Consultant said...

Hmm well I know I might be a little too late to comment about all these. Anyway 2 things I need to comment pertaining to JY's comment:-
Dear Jy
1. the comments you gave is not really motivating to me.
2. when the last time you watch YCP show beside monsoon? Should catch more of their shows. You know what I mean ;-)

Anonymous said...

jy, community theatre usually sucks! that's why they're cheap and have low production values, et al. must forgive them lah, not professional/s (in more ways than one) and it shows you know?

lecter, you are very PR and it will get you far! all best to you.

Anonymous said...

strange, i found her comments constructive. pointers on how she thinks it can improve. but to each his own.

so shut the fuck up, haters. if you can't take the fact that your play sucks according to miss phatybomb, then stay at the same level and continue churning out shit.

i don't know what your play is, and to be honest, i give nary a fuck.

my issue is with you people posting comments on her blog and giving her shiate for her opinion.

say. aren't you doing the same to her as she did to you? class act. you are self-annihilating.

at the very least she was attacking a play. you are attacking her very person.

welcome to the real world where everyone's not your mother, and therefore not expected to cushion your fragile egos with nice and diplomatic words.

learn to differentiate tone from message, idiots.

just exercising my right to have a brain and construct an opinion.

- cakie

Anonymous said...

Erm well, it's kinda late to be commenting on this.

Thank goodness it was only JY reviewing the play. Wait till u show Dick Lee or Dolly your kind of play, he wouldn't even stay to watch for an extra 5 minutes.

JY, if the play had been so bad, why stayed on for the whole play? Should have walked out of the theatre.

and to that big fat guy, i guess that it could be that she doesn't know your name.. so using "big fat guy" would be the easiest way out to identify you.

and peeps, if you dont like what she said, get off from her blog. she has the freedom to blog what she wants.

Anonymous said...

'Freedom to blog what she wants'
Yes folks, freedom of speech is really a bitch aint it.

Only people with morals and honour knows when to use it and when not too.

Who is this JY ar? she some big shot in theater?

I really dun know leh, just passing by.

Btw JY, whoever you are, your review was so personal, i nearly mistook it as a hate blog.

I'm sure those drama folks did SOME things right on the production.

If i'm not wrong there wasnt any positive comments given by u at all..

-Mr D

Anonymous said...

well Mr. D you are wrong.

she did give positive comment. even if she didn't, it is her point of view.

perhaps you should read the entry before you comment.

- cakie

Lecter said...


I think this has gone on for long enough.

The show's long over, everyone's had their say and we should all move on.

All I can say is, onwards to the next one and we can only hope that it will be better because we all want to strive to be the best in what we do. :)

Someone once told me, if you think you're good, there's no room for improvement.

Anonymous said...

Ooh. Monsoon.
The rip off play. Hw can anyone forget..