Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
Issue illustration


Current Issue:
Vol. 2 No. 2 Jan 2003

Site Map


QLRS sections
Short Stories
Extra Media
The Acid Tongue
QLRS general

About Us
Contributors' Notes
Mailing List
Site Map


Modish Multimedia Melodrama
WWW lacks the vision of earlier TNS plays

By Cyril Wong

Written and co-directed by Chong Tze Chien
Co-directed by Alvin Tan
The Necessary Stage / December 2002

The Necessary Stage’s latest production stumbles forth weakly as a compensatory follow-up to its previous intellectually-unchallenging effort, Close In Your Face, which was designed to impress and pander to a less savvy general public.

Written by Chong Tze Chien, who has released a new compilation of plays, PIE To Spoilt, the play focuses on Di, a Thai prostitute played movingly by Beatrice Chia, who dresses up as Wonder Woman to turn her customers on. The scene in which Di is beaten by one of her customers is probably one clichéd moment in the play that works due to the play’s two best elements: Chong’s ability to create simple dialogue loaded with emotional power, and Chia’s acting prowess. To watch the statuesque Chia in a moment of physical powerlessness during this scene also helped to further augment the sense that there are no Super-Heroes who may save the day, in the brutal reality peopled solely by victims and perpetrators, as portrayed by the play.

Hossan Leong and Norleena Salim play Mickey and Fi respectively, Di’s companions who get involved in the kidnapping of an American boy, whose parents, played by Richard Lord and Claire Devine, have come to Thailand to claim him. Other than Chia, and Devine at certain moments, everyone else is merely competent in their roles. This is not helped by the fact that the play has too many hackneyed moments. For example, Fi talks about how her ex-boyfriend died by drowning and laughs hysterically as though she were in a Taiwanese drama serial. Mickey supposedly gets his retribution when he ends up begging on the streets again after his mistreatment of Di and Fi and his involvement in the kidnapping syndicate.

The set is also not imaginatively utilised as one does not know which part of the stage is meant to signify the hotel room and which part is meant to be the prostitutes’ home. The video projections are indeed gimmicky, as Suhaila Sulaiman has already stated in her rather harsh review of the play in Life!, as they served little in moving the play along or augmenting its dramatic moments. Also, the newsflashes of journalistic headlines about kidnapping at the beginning of the play are unnecessary, as they could already have been implied or subtly referred to in the dialogue between the characters.

The best moments in the play are when the clichés do work, such as when Di and Helen, the kidnapped boy’s purported mother, are unable to communicate their distress to each other due to the language barrier – one speaks only Thai while the other English. Chia’s “Can you help me?” is repeatedly answered by Devine’s “Can I help you?” with mounting pathos which accumulates to the final moment when they hug, and each is touched by the other’s kindness. Sounds trite, doesn’t it? But this moment worked because of the conviction of the two actresses.

In the end, WWW is nothing like TNS’s earlier plays like BOTE and godeatgod in terms of intellectual and artistic vision. Often soppy and unnecessarily campy (as when Boom Boom Room dancers and transvestites came on stage to perform the Thai-version of ‘I Will Survive’), WWW is watchable mainly because of Chia and those fleeting moments of actual poignancy between the characters amidst all that melodrama and the overload of video-images.

QLRS Vol. 2 No. 2 Jan 2003


About Cyril Wong
Mail the editors

Return to Vol. 2 No. 2 Jan 2003

  Other Extra Media articles in this Issue

Random Lovers
Javascript poem by Toh Hsien Min. (Click refresh after reading the poem.)

Broken Dreams, From Top to Bottom
Richard Lord reviews Ang Tau Mui and Comrade Mayor.

Young Person's Guide to the Apocalypse
Richard Lord reviews Brokenville and Fireface.

Maths, Maps and Other Madness
Richard Lord reviews Proof and Lonely Planet.

Related Links

The Necessary Stage website
External link.

Review of WWW
External link to NUSSU.


Return to QLRS home

Copyright © 2003 The Authors
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | E-mail