Saturday, May 17, 2014

What a ride! Drama Night 2014

I wish I could say that Drama Night 2014 went without a hitch. Still, we had the best run ever of our main feature which looked and sounded pretty scrappy during the rehearsals -- even down to the full-dress. The kids peaked on show night, thankfully, and delivered a snappy performance that had the audience rooting for them all the way.

'The Car', by local playwright, Verena Tay, is a script with a little bit of everything: nostalgia; tenderness; conflict; humour; and a conclusion that brings a tear or two to the eye. Yes, even to me who's watched the rehearsals several times over, it still packs quite a potent punch, especially when all the magic comes together like it did last night.

One of the best production decisions we made was to blow our budget on headset mikes for the cast. The dialogue was strong and clear, though we could have balanced the sound better -- particularly when raised voices got a bit too loud over the speakers. Our set elements were minimal, leaving a stage practically bare of anything but generic location markers: a park bench (outdoors); a pile of home removal boxes (indoors); and centrestage reserved for the eponymous car, personified by our lead actor portraying an old Fiat Marvellette with a personality and many wistful memories to share.

The kids did well to deliver an honest and believable performance. We felt for Daniel, dad with the best of intentions, but obsessively overprotective over his beloved daughter. And as mother predicts, his inability to recognise that his daughter is growing up drives a wedge between the family members, with the car caught in between. Interspersed amidst the family drama are comedic elements provided by the supporting characters of the car salesman and his bevy of show car demonstrators; the frustrated mechanic who can't find spare parts; and the rival Datsun -- bright, shiny, pink, utilitarian, and ultimately disposable.

Based on overheard comments during and after the show, the audience enjoyed a polished performance that was easy to follow and realistic to their experience. They were stunned by the emotionally moving conclusion. We haven't delivered emo for a number of years now, focused as we have been on comedy, and tears -- real, sincere ones -- have apparently made a timely comeback.

The J1 special item would have been utterly hilarious if we had more time to rehearse it in its final incarnation. It was a parody of the god-awful STB 'Let's go over there' ad featuring a female tourist dragging her male companion around S'pore's more touristy locations. In our parody, we focused on the reason why the male had to be dragged around and we settled on playing up the female's neurotic fetish for inanimate objects. The conclusion was meant to degenerate into a Muppet Show chaos... but the J1s are as yet unblooded by onstage mayhem and so it ended more conservatively flat than intended. A few more rehearsals and we could have made an impact.

The irritating bits were the curtain transitions and the rather unprofessional curtain-call which we rehearsed, but perhaps not often enough to become automatic. I suppose we could blame time constraints for not being able to rehearse the entire show from beginning to end. It was all we could manage to make the content satisfactory, but we really have to work harder on the packaging as well if we're going to evolve beyond 'school-show' standards.

So one more big milestone in 2014 is passed. Roll on Drama Night 2015!

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