“Enduring Prism’s lamenting angry lecture on urban change.”
Reviewer: Christian W. Huber
Performance: 23 February 2017
When asked on a feedback form after the interval free 90-minute production of Prism, “what was your favourite part,” this reviewer is tempted to say the main sponsor’s surprise goody bag of Songhe Mixed Fragrant Rice and a bottle of Refined Canola Oil. Having sat through a plodding and torturous first night production focused on urban change, the goody bag is a real surprise and treat!
Promising a renewed and stripped down all-Singaporean version of its 2003 production which boasted a multi-lingual cast and crew, a US$1 million dollar budget, and toured six different Asian countries, Toy Factory Production’s 2017 boot-up does not benefit from the strip-down. Instead, it places a dampener on their season opener. The polite, yet dissatisfied curtain call from the audience illustrates how tired and preachy this piece continues to be.
With the viewers’ lack of investment, Prism will have a hard time finding its wings during the run.
It is wise for writer-director Goh Boon Teck to hand the directing helm of this production to someone else, but then the cracks lie within the realm of the director – Rei Poh – in not focusing to make the piece of urban change more engaging and less didactic.
With seasoned theatre practitioners – whose credits range from the stage, TV, and other multi-disciplinary visual mediums – showcasing their skills admirably, one is not really clear on the style of performance they are expected to present. Is it a multi-visual / lingual, stylistic, contemporary play with hints of poetic and symbolic gesturing? The journey of the main protagonist – Aman (played by Fir Rahman) – confronting his inner guilt and conscience, but at the same time having to do his duty as an official to evict the dwellers of The Surrounding City – falls flat with a charisma-less performance.
As he meanders and wanders through the city, so does the audience – away from him.
The set by first time set designer Leong Hon Kit is not pretty, though it does not have to be. A landscape that has a sense of aged and decaying beauty – rather than the grey, post-apocalyptic one presented – would definitely raise the stakes for the viewer to care. Whilst the consistent crackling sound of radioactivity (to demonstrate the impending arrival of the nuclear power plant), adds some tension, the cold Surrounding City leaves little desire to save it from its impending demolition.
If we don’t invest in the space being demolished, we can lament all we want. If something better comes up, then it is time to relish what memory there is, hold it in one’s heart, then start afresh.
With Toy Factory’s endurance and respect in the Singapore theatre scene for over 25 years, the hope is that they can refocus and concentrate on simplifying revisited pieces which are relevant, and not to alienate the millennial audience in not caring for the piece as a whole.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
PRISM by Toy Factory
23 February – 5 March 2017
Drama Centre Theatre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Christian is a C42 Boiler Room 2016 playwright, and enjoys being an audience member to different mediums of the arts. He finds arts invigorating to the soul, and truly believes that the vibrant arts scene has come a long way from its humble beginnings.