Picture by W!ld Rice
Date: 9 June 2007
Time: 8 pm
Venue: Play Den, The Arts House at Old Parliament
By Richard Chua
11 June 2007
The Young and Wild is the youth division of the Wild Rice theatre company. It is committed to the training and nurturing of new talents in Singapore. The participants went through many months of intensive workshops, which explored many facets of theatre practice. It is led by Wild Rice’s Associate Artistic Director Jonathan Lim. For their first public presentation, they have decided to stage On North Diversion Road.
On North Diversion Road is Tony Perez’s award winning play. It tells little stories of 10 couples driving down North Diversion Road in the Philippines, each of them on the theme of infidelity. Each story talks about the effects of infidelity on relationships after-the-fact. The play is a strong critique on the male psyche, essentially Filipino male, and that gives female actors lots to play with; from a wounded soul quietly suffering from her husband’s unfaithfulness, a disturbed woman just released from a mental hospital, a carefree singer secretly in love with the composer beside her, or a wife dying from cancer bidding her husband goodbye. It is indeed a good play allowing many actors to showcase their prowess. The participants of Young and Wild tried to do that, the result was less than what they have set to achieve.
Good drama is about showing the story, through its characters, the effective portrayal of its characters and their inner worlds. But, before an actor can do that, there are many obstacles to overcome. One such obstacle is the ability to listen and talk to co-players. Most of the characters in this production seemed disjointed, as they did not actually talk to each other. The writer was constantly reminded that the production was a showing of acting skills, rather than Tony Perez’s world of estranged couples. Intentions behind the lines were unclear, with little attempts to let the audiences understand the characters’ motivations. Actors also seemed to be unable to sustain their focus throughout their parts.
Young and Wild’s On North Diversion Road was drama on the go, literally. Actors sped past their lines without savouring what’s in them. Scenes were played as quick film frames with little attempts to flash out their characters. The actors – with an exception of Terence Tan, Tan Shou Chen and Candice Rozario, who put up good performances – seemed to put on similar designs of performance. Many characters were flattened as a result.
As previously said, there are some relatively sparkling performances in the production. Terence Tan, who played two characters in two separate stories, made a strong attempt to highlight the nuances in his characters, and not forgetting that he was driving while the conversations were going on – Most of the characters forgot they were actually driving on the road! Tan Shou Chen, who anchored the role of the composer in the last two scenes of the play, performed well. Candice Rozario, too, delivered a good performance. What makes three of them different is their abilities to ground themselves to the roles and actually talk to their co-players, react to their co-players as if they were hearing each other’s conversations for the very first time in their lives.
Special mention should also be given to director Jonathan Lim. The direction was set to provide the actors with the largest possible canvas to perform and show their results from months of training they have received. The use of daily household items to “build” the car was interesting. Lighting design was minimal and effective, and attentive to details.
In conclusion, acting is a craft that needs many years of training and practice. While most young people are yearning for their shots to 5 minutes of fame, through TV and other talent competitions, Wild Rice’s Young and Wild participants are hard at work in cultivating their crafts. A laudable effort. What’s important is not whether they have performed well in this production, but their continuous effort to try get rid of all the plaguing problems in the act of performance, so as to let the characters show their true selves in the theatre. Of the many good performances the writer has watched through the years, one single core element is always present – honesty. The writer would like to thank all members in the Young and Wild team for working hard on On North Diversion Road, with their hearts in the right places.
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Postscript (13 June 2007)
On hindsight, Wild Rice’s Young and Wild company has successfully trained a group of performers, a stage every actor will have to get over before they could further hone their crafts. As performers, Young and Wild participants are indeed bold and promising to watch.