“More Transformation Needed”
Reviewer: Andre Joseph Theng
Performance: 7 February 2015
In the days preceding the play, I contemplated the title of the production – “Circle Mirror Transformation“. I struggled to make heads or tails of what this not-quite-grammatical title can possibly mean. So I set out to discover the reason for the rather cryptic title.
I guess it kind of made sense: the circle referred to the circle they were constantly in during the class and the mirror is a metaphor for self-reflection, resulting in “transformation”.
Pangdemonium begins its new season with an Annie Baker’s script, a play about four misfits who attend an acting class at a Community Centre, taught by Marty, a misfit herself, played by Neo Swee Lin. In the course of the two-hour intermission-less play spanning six weeks, the characters (played by Adrian Pang, Selma Alkaff, Nikki Muller and Daniel Jenkins) reveal snippets about their lives, their pain and their insecurities.
The greatest joy about the play is the memories of drama class exercises; walking around the classroom and trying to stop together and those dubious exercises that don’t seem to have anything to do with acting. Indeed, this is echoed when Alkaff’s character, Lauren asks Marty if they are going to do be doing any “real acting”.
There is nothing particularly bad about Circle Mirror Transformation, but nothing exceptional either. My feeling is that it has been let down (once again, just as Fat Pig was) by a lacklustre script. Firstly it is set in a small-town in Vermont, USA and fairly removed from the average local audience member. The series of far-fetched coincidences and their resultant ‘cathartic transformation’ fall short due to undeveloped characters.
That is not to say that Pangdemonium did not a good job with the production; and the acting was commendable. There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Newcomer Alkaff puts in the best performance, appearing natural in her character’s awkwardness and providing much of the comedy in the production. I commend Pangdemonium for giving fresh arts graduate their first break.
The Wong Chee Wai set is excellent. At first glance it is merely a sterile and generic room with white walls and fluorescent lights. On closer inspection, one discovers the many wonderful details built into the set. The walls are not perfectly white, but feature water stains as if the ceiling was leaky. The false perspective was a nice touch as well, and a notice-board on one side was not rectangular but followed the lines of the ceiling.
After watching a production, I like to look up what people are saying about it online and on social media. Predictably, most people ‘loved it’ and everyone seems to have had a good night out. While this is obviously not a scientific survey of popular opinion, or of the production’s quality, I think that the Singapore theatre scene is big enough to give plays like Circle Mirror Transformation some space – unexceptional and not particularly memorable, but good enough for a few laughs, and some ‘life lessons’, all resulting in a pleasant night out.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION by Pangdemonium! Productions
29 January – 15 February 2015
DBS Arts Centre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Andre Joseph Theng is passionate about the intricacies of language, and reviewing allows him to combine his love for both theatre and writing.