Reviewer: Selina Chong
Performance: 27 June 2017
Boeing Boeing sets a clear flight path: to entertain the audience. That it does effortlessly. Having staged Boeing Boeing three times before, Wild Rice is an old hand at this. While every iteration is just a little different from the previous, by and large, the antics and jokes remain the same. In these economically and politically turbulent times, Boeing Boeing is a familiar and comforting experience.
The premise is simple: Bernard has three girlfriends, all flight attendants. He carefully maintains a calendar to keep them all happy and happily far apart. The troupe is completed by Rosa, Bernard’s long-suffering domestic helper, and Robert, Bernard’s university mate. What can possibly go wrong? Lots, obviously. Expect madcap antics, slamming doors, lots of running around, and more slamming doors. It’s clear that countless hours were put into rehearsals – the comic timing of the entire cast is impeccable.
Director Pam Oei’s familiarity with the material shows: the comings and goings of the different characters have been choreographed to metronomic accuracy and the flurry of feet and slamming doors keep the comedy rolling at a steady pace. She creates sufficient tension to keep me invested in what happens, but not so much as to curtail my enjoyment of the production. However, I also expected more from a female director helming the production for the first time. The 2017 iteration of Boeing Boeing is no less misogynistic than its predecessors, and that disappoints me slightly. The female characters are little more than tropes – whether they are materialistic like Ms SQ, or hopelessly in love and naïve, like Ms Air China.
That said, as with all farces, we’re not expecting enlightenment or great insight in Boeing Boeing. That is not at all to suggest that the production is not sharp: a standout line for me was when Rosa declared she’s more than a woman, she’s a domestic helper. While hilarious, the line also reflects an aspect of Singapore society that’s much less funny. The strength of Wild Rice’s production of Boeing Boeing is the authenticity of its adaptation to local contexts. Oon Shu An’s Ms SQ is everything I’ve thought about Singapore at various times: seductive, attractive, fervently nationalistic, flagrantly materialistic, and pragmatic to a fault.
2017 is fast shaping up to be the year Wild Rice gives new wings to old productions. This year, they are restaging La Cage Aux Folles, Boeing Boeing, and Grandmother Tongue. Both La Cage and Boeing Boeing are easy on the palate – the former boasting song and dance amidst spectacular backdrops, the latter a very accessible piece of comedy. Yes, it is true theatre does not always have to deliver hard-hitting truths and explore complex issues. At the same time, I can’t help wondering what Wild Rice’s choice of productions to restage suggests about audiences in Singapore and what attracts people to the theatre in Singapore.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
BOEING BOEING by Wild Rice
23 June – 22 July 2017
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Selina loves the theatre and its ability to engage, enrapture, and entertain. The magic of the stage never ceases to create joy and wonder for her. The potential of the theatre to educate also dovetails with her teacher duties and she wishes more young people had time to watch a show instead of attend another tuition lesson.