“Delightful, unique and funny, but could be better explained”
Reviewer: Meera Nair
Performance: 17 June 2016
Forty-five minutes of non-stop laughter interspersed with utter confusion may be a rather mind-boggling description, but it is best way I can sum up the experience of watching Balek Kampung.
Through its plot, Balek Kampung draws comparisons between satirical sketch shows and futuristic dystopian storylines. The play sets Singapore a hundred years in the future, where the country is ruled by an artificial consciousness composed of the minds of the greatest Singapore leaders and citizens. While the premise is unique, the execution lacks coherence and leaves too many unanswered questions that mar the experience of the production. For instance, we never learn why the AI has a spiritual awakening, or where the alien written language that it uses comes from. There is also a disjunction between how ‘Balek Kampung’ appears to be a radio broadcast by Symphonic 924, but the memories dredged up by the AI are visual rather than auditory.
That is not to say that Balek Kampung doesn’t entertain. Playwright David Khoo has a gift for comedy and the funny moments make the play a delight to watch. From the news reports of uncles not wanting to be uncles in Singapore 2115 to the antics of Give-Way Glenda and Move-In Martin in the present, the audience is left in stitches. Actor Darren Guo deserves praise for his comedic portrayals, beginning with his perfectly gormless look during a sketch on ‘VR Man’ and his arch-nemesis ‘Click-Click Man’, to his version of Phua Chu Kang that could give Gurmit Singh a run for his money. Hadfiz Abdul Rahman dons a sari for his hilarious portrayal of a stereotypical Indian auntie during the Phua Chu Kang sketch. Through the play, David Khoo demonstrates a breadth of knowledge on Singapore culture, grounding the play in Singapore despite its futuristic premise.
As an idea, Balek Kampung is promising, but the script could do with more tightening to address the questions and inconsistencies. That said, I would love to see more from David Khoo in the future.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
BALEK KAMPUNG by David Khoo
16 – 19 June 2016
Goodman Arts Centre