Candy floss with punchlines

Denise Tan and Shane Mardjuki (both above), as opposites that attract, share a sparky chemistry.
Denise Tan and Shane Mardjuki (both above), as opposites that attract, share a sparky chemistry. PHOTO: SINGAPORE REPERTORY THEATRE

Opposites attract, but the witty banter between the two characters evolves into an unrealistic sitcom of a play

If your everyday Hollywood romantic comedy decided to become flesh, it might very well find a bodily home in Hello Goodbye.

This feel-good, candy-floss play by Peter Souter may not charm your socks off entirely, but it relies on a sweet formula it knows should work most of the time: girl meets boy, boy isn't interested at first, opposites attract, boom, fireworks.

For the first half of the play, at least. The second act, set 10 years later, admits that "opposites attract" might really last only that long before the fault lines begin to show.

Type A career woman Juliet (Denise Tan) is all set to move into a new apartment for a fresh start to her romantic troubles - only to find that the geeky Alex (Shane Mardjuki) has arrived there first, with boxes full of meticulous collections: bugs, baseball cards, action figurines, you name it.

  • REVIEW / THEATRE

  • HELLO GOODBYE

    Singapore Repertory Theatre

    DBS Arts Centre/Last Saturday

It's an efficient start for a meet-cute and evolves into a tangy, if unrealistic, sitcom of a play.

  • BOOK IT / HELLO GOODBYE

  • WHERE: DBS Arts Centre, 20 Merbau Road


    WHEN: Till Sept 26. Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm. No shows on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (except tomorrow)


    ADMISSION: $40 to $60 from Sistic (excludes booking fee; go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

Most of the exposition is shoehorned into the two characters' incessantly twee repartee, as if every conversation they have together must involve witty banter of the highest degree and the perfectly composed comeback.

Case in point: She rolls her eyes, "Has anyone offered to take your virginity out of sheer pity?" Later, he fights back: "Is it wise for you to breed?"

And then she says: "The moment I drop my front," meaning the emotional front she puts up, "You'll want to see my front." Meaning her rather chesty front.

The sceptic in me groaned, but it seems that the die-hard romantics around me mostly found it very cute and funny.

This is Souter's first theatre play - his background is in radio and TV - and it shows. Hello Goodbye is a bit of Richard Curtis with some Friends thrown in.

Alex and Juliet are the ultimate flannel-wearing hipster couple, and the apartment they're tussling over contains everything from tiny frying pans to McDonald's Happy Meal toy collections. Alex is even an album-sleeve designer, to add to the play's list of analogue preoccupations.

If this were, indeed, a sitcom with a laugh track, there would be some distance from the fairy tale unfolding on stage, but with theatre there comes that expectation that these living, breathing people should be at least somewhat grounded in real life, and not recurring archetypes dispensing cute lines.

Thankfully, Tan and Mardjuki have a good, sparky chemistry, each playing character types they are comfortable with - he is twitchy and awkward, she is scene- chewingly garrulous.

In a play full of punchlines, however, it can be hard to sort the belly laughs from the polite ones. This gets a bit better in the second act, where there is at least some sadness and bitterness to leaven with humour.

Unfortunately, the superficial arguments that pepper Alex and Juliet's bickering in this second half feel like the sort of discussions that would come up 10 months into a relationship, and not 10 years later.

Souter has his finger on an excellent premise, to turn a romantic chance encounter on its head and transform it into a departure, but this separation is too polite, too well-structured to feel like the frayed end of a well-worn relationship.

But one gets the sense that the play isn't looking for realism here, with its ending going on a decidedly odd trajectory.

Hello Goodbye is exactly what its title says - it is about the pleasantries you exchange when you meet and when you leave, about making an impression at both ends of a relationship for your lover, now ex-, to remember you by.

This makes for a pleasant enough evening out - I wouldn't marry Hello Goodbye, but I'd go on a nice date with it. Maybe with an extra bottle of wine.

• Follow Corrie Tan on Twitter @CorrieTan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2015, with the headline 'Candy floss with punchlines'. Print Edition | Subscribe