“Double-Bill: Riders Know When It’s Gonna Rain & Hawa”
Reviewer: Lee Min Jie
Performance: 30 June 2016
In Riders Know When It’s Gonna Rain (Riders), four impressive looking motorbikes line side by side upstage composing an Instagram-worthy set. It is a coming-of-age story about four friends, within the oft-misunderstood mat motor community in Singapore, whose lives are anything but picture perfect.
Riders opens with its four protagonists gathered around a void deck’s circular stone chairs and tables. A versatile setting chosen for its possible negative associations as a place where rowdy and rebellious youths hang out or smoke. The chairs niftily change into traffic barriers in the last scene.
Broken families, unstable financial incomes and a knack for everything but academics, forces them to juggle familial responsibilities, work and school simultaneously. This leaves them with their love for motorbikes and makes their passion for riding the only escape from life. Unfortunately, their love for motorbikes is a double edged sword, binding them as well as dividing them.
During the soliloquies, characters pour their hearts out and turn stereotypes about motorists on its head. No doubt such a direct mode of presentation is at once personal and forthright but it comes across as too simplistic for a professional cast. After all, “show not tell” is the modus operandi of theatre.
In Hawa, Siti (Koh Wan Ching), a Chinese who recently converted to Islam, is overwhelmed by the sudden responsibility to oversee the funeral arrangements for her Malay girlfriend. As she grapples to come to terms with her loss, the funeral director and a “gate crasher thief” reminds her to fulfil her religious and social obligations.
Koh is sincere and sensitive in her portrayal of Siti. Understandably crude and curt in her exchanges with the others, she succinctly delivers the complex emotions and struggles of a homosexual faced with rejection from family and religion.
Saiful Amri is charming and comical as a funeral director who lives by the mantra “business is business” and “a human only has dignity when he is alive.”
Al-Matin Yakim is able to hold his own as Zaki, the uninvited mourner. A conscientious and conservative portrayal saves that character from coming across as a sleazy and one-dimensional hijab-chasing deviant.
Hawa boldly interrogates the position and value of religion in today’s society where faith seems to be waning in the face of progress in science and where heterosexuality is no longer the only sexuality endorsed. Non-Muslim audiences are also treated to a rare opportunity to peek into the rituals behind an Islam funeral.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
DOUBLE BILL: RIDERS KNOW WHEN IT’S GONNA RAIN/HAWA by Wild Rice/Hatch Theatrics
30 June – 3 July 2016
LASALLE College of the Arts Creative Cube
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Lee Min Jie is a third-year Theatre Studies major at the National University of Singapore who is drawn to Theatre’s ability to immerse one in a world carefully conjured up by artists.