In Lockdown, counsellor Nora (Shida Mahadi) summons three of her students to her room for questioning about a transgression.
She hardly gets any answers at first, but her questions reveal fault lines in their loyalties.
When the school goes into lockdown due to a supposed fire drill, it triggers her claustrophobia, taking away her power as the authority figure in the room.
It is an interesting premise, but Lockdown, a debut work written and directed by Raimi Liandy Safari of contemporary Malay theatre group Hatch Theatrics, suffers from a rushed narrative, leading to a unsatisfying ending.
The characters themselves are interesting - each one with a dark edge - and the acting was competent, but I found myself stopping short of caring for any of them when I watched the play at The Substation Theatre ysterday.
Moments of emotional exploration were sorely missing and there was a lot of telling in lieu of showing, betraying the playwright's lack of experience.
For example, Jason's (Andy Yew) willingness to follow others is exploited by others: his parents make him uproot from Malaysia to Singapore because of their business, and Wan (Farez Najid) treats him like a loyal dog.
We empathise, but when he says that he is tired of Singapore because "when you look at something white long enough, it doesn't look white anymore", we do not quite buy it.
Shida, as the most experienced actor in the cast, brought the crazy-eyed teacher with daddy issues to life. Her severe bun and red lips drawn into a plastered smile gave the play a bizarre, but not entirely unpleasant, feel. When good boy Izz (Ziyad Bagharib) gets nervous, the audience does too.
A line later uttered by class clown and ringleader Wan (a hilarious Farez Najid) seems apt: "Only crazy people become teachers."
A teacher himself, playwright Raimi attempts to make some interesting points about the profession.
Nora delivers a monologue at the end about having to show students the way even when a teacher knows that "the system is hardly fair", and when she herself will "never be good enough".
But she turns this noble effort on its head, causing boy to turn on boy to disastrous ends.
If it was meant to make her a caricature of a teacher gone bad, then maybe the playwright succeeded. But I was not convinced that this was his intention.
Like a young child still finding its way through life, Lockdown has the feel of an early work with lots of potential. But it has enough redeeming qualities to make me feel that it could shine after some careful revision.
LOCKDOWNWhere: The Substation TheatreWhen: Today, 3pm and 8pmAdmission: $20 from the Substation Box Office or call 6337-7800 to reserve tickets.