“A Bloody Mess“
Reviewer: Cordelia Lee
Performance: 23 February 2017
NUS King Edward VII Hall’s staging of David Christner’s This Blood’s For You, is at best a failed attempt at dark comedy.
It is, at worst, a complete farce.
Producer Nathaniel Lim promises his audience a provocative piece highlighting the ethical implications of capital punishment and the rights to organ donation. All hopes for a stimulating discussion on ethics are dashed the moment the cast opens their mouths.
Their struggle to speak in an African-American vernacular is apparent. What eventually emerges is an unfortunate mutant hybrid of the vernacular and locally accented Singaporean English. As the play progresses, the cast increasingly lapses into the latter and partially breaks out of character.
“…lift the praying to me, Charlie.” Wan Liang Xiang, who plays Father John, confidently announces at the dinner table. He is blatantly unaware of his slip in accent, but the audience catches it, and a snigger is heard. Annabel Teo, who is casted as Sherry James, the mother of a convicted man, neither speaks nor walks like an older woman. She rambles her lines with the energy of a petulant teenager, accompanying them with exaggerated gestures as she flits from place to place. Evidently, it is Teo we see on stage, not Sherry.
Scenes are painfully static, burdened with continuous chains of dialogue and minimal movement.
Pairs of actors automatically throw out their lines after receiving a response. The process is almost mechanical, and devoid of emotion. No real relationship is established or conveyed to the audience, and character motivation is told but not shown. Conversations become an absolute chore to listen to.
All scenes in the cell follow the same laborious pattern. Someone enters to visit Charlie James (Dylan Ng). They sit, they stand, they shuffle a few steps to the left or right. They pause, they realise their lines are done, they leave the cell.
Lights down, lights up, repeat. If you’re lucky, the new visitor gets upset and bangs the table.
The presence of three aerial microphones above centre stage further limits physical movement, and is more of a hindrance than a help. The cast never steers too far from them, possibly for fear of being inaudible. Unfortunately, being mic’d up comes with a price. As the voices amplify, they also echo through the space and interfere with the clarity of speech. Investing in vocal projection classes instead of aerial microphones is something the team should consider for future performances.
Despite seven months of preparations, the cast comes off as unorganised and uncommitted to staying in character. It renders the performance amateurish, distracting the audience and preventing them from internalising the content and subtext in the onstage dialogues. The ineptitude of an inexperienced cast could perhaps be forgiven, but the consequences remain. The flimsy illusion of the fictional realm is jeopardised, and they have lost the attention of their audience.
To charge $23 a ticket for This Blood’s For You, is clearly daylight robbery.
Now someone should definitely be charged for that.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
THIS BLOOD’S FOR YOU by NUS King Edward VII Hall
23 – 24 February 2017
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Cordelia is a second-year Theatre Studies and English Linguistics double major. She views the theatre as a liminal space providing far more than simply entertainment, and she especially appreciates avant-garde performances.