Good ingredients, but needs a better recipe

From far left: Andrea Lim, Shannen Tan and Laura Kee in A Piece Of Cake, the last play in The Wright Stuff, a platform for new playwrights presented by Toy Factory Productions.
From far left: Andrea Lim, Shannen Tan and Laura Kee in A Piece Of Cake, the last play in The Wright Stuff, a platform for new playwrights presented by Toy Factory Productions. PHOTO: TOY FACTORY PRODUCTIONS

REVIEW / THEATRE

A PIECE OF CAKE

Toy Factory Productions

17A Smith Street/Monday

A moment of self-actualisation is meant to occur in A Piece Of Cake when aspiring baker Pat exchanges her old bestseller Milo cheesecake for a confection where the malted mixture takes second place to yuzu and yogurt.

One has to take the playwright's word for it that the newer combination works. However, in this play from debut writer Samantha Chia, directed by Mustafa Sulaiman, secondary flavours overwhelm what was supposed to be the strong centrepiece: the story of a woman who chooses a satisfying career over settling down with her long-time boyfriend.

Laura Kee chooses to underplay Pat and is easily outshone by Shannen Tan as Pat's vibrant sister June and Kristina Pakhomova as their annoying cousin Crystal. After a few initial hiccups, Andrea Lim as the mother, Geok, and Ivan Choong as Pat's boyfriend, Thomas, steal the spotlight in their scenes as well.

Each of these develops as they spend time with Pat or each other. The so-called central character, however, remains a bland sponge cake desperately needing the icing or spice of the other actors to pique the audience's palate.

A Piece Of Cake is the final play in The Wright Stuff, a platform set up this year by Toy Factory Productions to give debut playwrights and rising directors a chance to experiment.

The upstairs area in the group's Chinatown shophouse is interestingly used. There are two separate sets on either side of the key- shaped space, one for Pat's bakery and the other for her home. Actors often walk past the audience in the 80-minute show.

It could have been a device to bring viewers into the intimacy of the scene. Instead, it needlessly slows down transitions and blocks the audience's view of half the action, depending on where the viewer is seated. It might have been better to set all scenes in a single location. Pat's anxious mother could easily have brought dinner to her hard-working daughters in the bakery, rather than insist they come home.

Pat's relationships are generally told, not shown. This deficiency is most obvious in her interaction with her sister. Both are single women who are passionate about their careers and pressed by the same parent to marry.

The key recipe change could have come naturally from their dialogue instead of being prompted by a deus ex machina (played by Nicholas Bloodworth). Hopefully the play gets another chance at a staging. There are good ingredients here, but some need to be combined differently, or jettisoned for the sake of a unified, strong taste.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Good ingredients, but needs a better recipe'. Print Edition | Subscribe