“Mooncakes and sexcapades“
Reviewer: Walter Chan
Performance: 15 October 2015
Our Company’s third production falters with a lackluster script.
Now it should be said, right at the outset, that I have deep-seated reservations about devised theatre. (This is a form of theatre that creates the performance through rehearsals and improvisation.) Too often, the end product falls horrifically short of the sum of all efforts.
As is this case too.
The premise for Jonathan, David & Me is deceptively simple, safe and best of all, heartwarming. The friendship of three men, charted from secondary school to adulthood.
Can’t go wrong with that, right?
The plot begins with Jonathan breaking the news of his engagement to his two friends (David and Mervyn, who functions as the narrator), but grinds to a halt just as Angela’s name (Mervyn’s ex) is mentioned. We then see numerous flashbacks – in non-chronological order to boot – that detail the start of their friendship in secondary school, growing apart during their time in the army, and then meeting up at different points of adulthood. The two subplots – David and Saul from the Bible, as well as The Epic of Gilgamesh, are interspersed between scenes to add more oomph to the story.
But the only thing they add is confusion. It’s hard enough to keep track of the main story between Jonathan, David and Mervyn – that plot alone has more twists than a pot of fusilli! Their version of “bro talk” jumps from mooncakes and sexcapades, to dating each other’s exes and (accidentally) calling her a “hand-me-down”.
Nevertheless, to have this story stand alongside the other two legends only serves to highlight its meagerness. The script somehow enjoys wallowing in its toilet humour, while the physical humour is weak at best. In addition, the anecdotes verge on being too middle-class and self-indulgent (and this is also reflected among the audience members, who are decked in office wear – you make the connection). The most fatal flaw, however, is that friendship is rationalised between the three friends as a transaction (the “I’m here for you so in the future you have to be there for me” vibe that somehow lingers throughout the entire show).
So, with a script this lackluster, there’s really no point in trying to dissect the rest of the performance in detail. The actors showed their inexperience – some even forgot their lines! – and the set design had a curious detail of having peanuts lining the perimeter of the set, serving no functional purpose to the play. Of course there’s the crude “secondary school literature analysis” reading of “peanuts as metaphor for male friendship”, but I’d like to think that the production team can assume that us viewers are a little more sophisticated than that.
Altogether, this production seemed paradoxically complicated and simplistic at the same time. Chart it down to inexperience – there is much room for improvement.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
JONATHAN, DAVID & ME by Our Company
14 – 18 October 2015
Drama Centre Black Box
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Walter Chan has recently starting dabbling in play-writing, most usually writing ‘for fun, but hopes to develop his hobby into something more substantial in the future.