REVIEW / THEATRE
TO BE CONTINUED
Full Show Lane Studio
M1 Chinese Theatre Festival
Practice Space Last Saturday
Accessible, amusing and acrobatic, To Be Continued is one of the stand-out productions at the M1 Chinese Theatre Festival this year.
On one level, it is the tale of 20something Molly (Xu Zi Xuan) whom Death informs her time is up. Before she can move to the next world, she must find the most important thing in her life.
Until she does, she will continue to relive the last day of her life.
On another level, this is the story of four struggling thespians creating a play about Molly in between fielding calls from fiendish landlords or bullying bosses.
Liu Zheng Zhi, Wang Shanshui, Xi Zi and Zhang Naitian act out such daily dramas in between playing the parts of Death or Molly's friends and love interests as the character repeats one day time and time again.
To Be Continued was the breakout success for director Huang Ying and this staging, also from executive director Yuchi Shaonan, shows why.
It is the perfect play to introduce theatre to a young adult audience and remind older viewers that art can be entertaining.
It is a tale for today's Asia, a madcap medley of song and absurd physical improvisation, a rapid romp on the treadmill the youth- and money-obsessed culture is riding.
This is the treadmill of getting good grades for a good but monotonous job that rewards only with money to buy branded goods and status over underlings.
It is a treadmill that goes nowhere and kills a fitness-obsessed gym instructor while his students snap photos instead of pulling the plug.
The acting is superb, cast snapping in and out of roles that require dexterity and musical talent.
A hummable theme song has the audience singing along.
Props are plentiful, simple and scattered on stage so the actors only have to shake out a striped sheet to denote a bed or lay it out to produce a pond in a park.
The sole and glaring flaw is the staging. The Practice Space is not set up to allow viewers at the side or top to clearly observe action that takes place on the ground.
Many scenes are performed while actors sit or lie down, so viewers in the last three rows have to stand to see the action.
Death is the director setting the tone of Molly's adventures, with each of the four thespians guiding the action according to his own desires.
She seeks out a K-pop celebrity when guided by the womaniser, she seeks out true love when guided by a jilted lover.
Inevitably and delightfully, Molly breaks free of her creators and chooses her own end. She chooses the happiness of others and loses the baggage - literally, props are packed into two suitcases.
The cliche is so sweetly delivered that it is entirely forgiven. The audience even joins the cast in the final song.