Review: An Enemy Of The People (Nine Years Theatre)

rsz_1522124_273651802782255_1915973110_nVenue: National Museum of Singapore (Singapore), Jan 8 – 11, 2014
Playwright: Henrik Ibsen (Mandarin translation by Nelson Chia)
Director: Nelson Chia
Actors: Rei Poh, Mia Chee, Hang Qian Chou, Neo Hai Bin, Jean Toh

Theatre review
This is a story about truth, greed, and democracy. Originally published in 1882, its central themes remain relevant and powerful. The play capitalises on our fundamental need to seek not only for truths, but also for personal materialistic gain, and of course the struggle between the two. Nelson Chia’s translation is faithful to the original, and his direction of the text is a straightforward one. There is an emphasis on giving Ibsen’s work and ideas absolute focus, with no obvious liberties taken for updates or reinterpretations. What results is a kind of language and “period” tonality that is fascinatingly quirky. It is simultaneously realistic yet unusual, which gives the production a sense of wonder and theatricality. Visual design elements should also be noted for their effectiveness and refinement.

Performances are committed and disciplined. A sense of polish and measuredness permeates the proceedings, and the precision at which the story is told gives the show not only an air of professionalism but also a rare beauty. Lead man Rei Poh steals the show with moments of flamboyance and pomposity. His portrayal of the hero invites doubt, and disallows convenient certainty, giving the play a complexity that necessitates thought and discussion. The cast of five is a young one, but there is no question that they take this work seriously. This however, comes at the cost of the depiction of sarcasm and delivery of humour, which are evident in Ibsen’s writing. The ensemble’s attention on plot and realism does make the story crystal clear, but some of the comedy seems to have been sacrificed in the process. Perhaps a slightly exaggerated sense of performance could be introduced, so that the play’s farcical nature can be elevated.

An Enemy Of The People is a political story, but the production does not use it to push forth with a simple reading of social mechanics. Indeed, it portrays politics and economies as being problematic by nature, and hence, ambiguities lay central to our existences. It is to the company’s credit that these complex ideas are presented with simplicity, succinctness and a lot of elegance.

Review: Notre Dame De Paris (Base Entertainment)

14247-140-7[1]Venue: Marina Bay Sands (Singapore), Dec 17, 2013 – Jan 11, 2014
Book: Victor Hugo
Music: Riccardo Cocciante
Lyrics: Luc Plamondom (English translation by Will Jennings)
Director: Giles Maheu
Actors: Alessandra Ferrari, Matt Laurent, Robert Marien, Richard Charest, Alberto Mangia Vinci, Ian Carlyle, Elicia MacKenzie

Theatre review
The story unfolds with a lack of clarity, and the English lyrics are less than elegant, but this “Musical Spectacular” features a cast of astounding talent (largely Canadian), and their work makes for an evening of inspiration and fantastic entertainment.

Robert Marien is outstanding as Frollo, with a magnificent voice that is world class. The songs he performs showcase his talents well, and allow for the performer to steal the show effortlessly. Alessandra Ferrari plays Esmeralda, impressing her audience with a vocal range that will remain unforgettable. Even though her role is spectacularly anti-feminist, Ferrari is able to charm her way and make her audience fall into endearment.

Choreography is relatively conventional, but the team of dancers and acrobats perform at a level that can only be described as stellar. We are treated to an incredibly high energy and accomplished presentation, with influences from jazz, modern and break dance, along with shades of Cirque du Soleil and the Eurovision Song Contest. Yes, things do get kitschy, but they are irresistibly so.

The theatre seats 2,155 but today’s session probably was less than a quarter filled. The performers were entirely unperturbed and gave their all, and the audience was obviously swept away. The standing ovation at the end of the evening was genuine, and well deserved.