>revelations by the necessary stage

>reviewed by fong li ling

>date: 12 jun 2003
>time: 8pm
>venue: jubilee hall, raffles hotel
>rating: **1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


If REVELATIONS' aim was to let the audience leave, feeling futile, then it has succeeded. The play did not seem to go anywhere, so much so that some decided to leave in the middle of it.

REVELATIONS features three scenarios: one, Grandmother (Goh Guat Kian) is desperately trying to reach out to her grandson (Nick Shen); two, a husband and wife (Lim Kay Tong and Nora Samosir) leave their children (Serena Ho and Rodney Oliveiro) in order to be together forever; and three, a married woman (Noorlinah Mohamed) falls in love with a girl.

The play begins with a man entering in silence. He stops halfway. Bows. Leaves. Grandmother and Boy come in from either side of the stage. The amount of time they both take before they finally meet at a corner of the stage seriously tests the patience of the audience. What did not help was the dimness of the lighting. They take a bit more time to settle into their positions and at last, they start talking.

Grandmother is dying and wants Boy, her only kin, to sign the papers for the flat she bought for him. However, Boy, who has just returned from New York, goes against his grandmother's wishes because he does not want to get tied down by the instalments. Moreover, he detests the local way of life. Grandmother eventually reveals what Boy wants to know: how his parents died. It was Grandmother's inability to let go that led to Boy's parents' death. She confesses that she has always needed somebody around her, and now it is Boy's turn.

>>'A lot of things were happening at the same time, and more often than not, it was hard to link one situation with another.'

For a dreary ten to fifteen minutes or so, the audience saw Grandmother and Boy talking to each other in their separate spaces, they themselves not having much movement from where they were. Even when they reached out for each other, it was into a void. Agonizing as it was for both characters, it was agonizing (for me, at least) to watch them not have any physical contact over such a long period of time, despite the small distance between them.

Grandmother dies in the end, before Boy signs the papers. In a way, Grandmother gets what she wants: someone beside her when she breathes her last breath. Boy, too, gets what he wants: the freedom to do what he wants, now that his grandmother has passed away. It seemed to me that in this case, death was the only answer. If so, is someone's death the only way for us to attain our hearts' desires?

The rest of the two scenarios are intertwined. The second one unfolds after the death of Grandmother. Father and Mother tell their daughter, Ngoh, that they are leaving her and her brother, Boon, so that their own relationship will be everlasting. Somewhere around the middle, and at the end of the play, we find out that Mother is actually like Euripedes' Medea. Her act of killing her own flesh and blood was apparently the consequence of Father's actions. What leaves me baffled in the end is that, if she murdered her children, how do Ngoh and Boon exist?

In any case, Ngoh meets Rathi, and they intend to get married. At first, everyone thinks it is lesbianism, but lo and behold, Rathi and her husband, Rama (Kumar), are really transsexuals. Rathi asks Rama to change back so that she can marry Ngoh rightfully. When Ngoh brings Rathi to see Boon to tell him about their marriage, he thinks it could be the first divine union, and he is set to find this so-called "real union" for himself.

At the end of it all, nothing is really resolved. The audience never truly finds out what eventually happens to each character. Did they get what they desired? Or is each character's journey pointless because every step they take does not seem bring them to a concrete consequence? Does the audience have to make up their own consequences for the characters?

The open-ended conclusion of the play was not something that appealed to all. There are a lot of assumptions left for the audience to make and to some it may even seem as if there was nothing shown at all. A lot of things were happening at the same time, and more often than not, it was hard to link one situation with the other. Worse still, there could be no links between the situations at all. Kumar's short but sweet dance sequence certainly spiced up the whole performance, yet, once again, how does one link it to the piece in its entirety?

People were straining to see contact between Grandmother and Boy, but it did not happen. When there was finally contact between two characters, a gentle touch looked especially beautiful. But later, physical contact got a little excessive. One instance was particularly distasteful, and its relevance to the play was not clear. While gay is all well and good, perhaps when semi-nude scenes are performed whilst talking about Sir Stamford Raffles and stars, subtlety would be more effective.

It seems to me that the play lacks structure. The three stories obviously revolve around the same themes, but there is no coherence amongst them. I am not suggesting that the plot should be linear, but rather than the way it was presented, the idea of the piece seemed as though it could have been put across more effectively in one story of a precise twenty minutes' length. And while we're at it, brighter lighting and a less disconcerting soundscape would have helped as well.