Theatre review: Recent theatre graduands' production is good but not enough

The cast and the creatives from Potluck Productions' Eulogy Project I: Muah Chee Mei and Me (from left to right), Luke Kwek, Ellison Tan Yuyang, Gloria Ng, Alexandre Thio, Nureen Raidah, Michelle Tan and Muhammad Khairulnizam Hamid. -- PHOTO: NG
The cast and the creatives from Potluck Productions' Eulogy Project I: Muah Chee Mei and Me (from left to right), Luke Kwek, Ellison Tan Yuyang, Gloria Ng, Alexandre Thio, Nureen Raidah, Michelle Tan and Muhammad Khairulnizam Hamid. -- PHOTO: NG XI JIE

THE EULOGY PROJECT I: MUAH CHEE MEI AND ME

Potluck Productions

Goodman Arts Centre Gallery/Last Friday (Aug 29)

A good portion of muah chee, the sticky glutinous rice snack, is soft, chewy and covered with a generous helping of sugary crushed peanuts.

The Eulogy Project I: Muah Chee Mei And Me, has good muah chee, but not enough peanuts to complete the dish.

While the core ideas of the show were strong and its premise interesting, there was not enough development to breathe life into this whirlwind 45-minute show.

The project is presented by Potluck Productions, a group comprising recent graduates from Cake Theatrical Productions’ training platform.

The audience, a maximum of 30 people per session, is taken on a guided tour of Muah Chee Mei’s (Alexandre Thio) life. We are voyeurs to some of her most intimate moments: her father’s death, her musings on love, and we even visit her room.

In the director’s message, we are instructed to “consider how you will remember Muah Chee Mei, and what her eulogy would be like if you had to write it.”

“And then, consider this: would that be how Mei wants to be remembered?”

Mei is a fictional character, and supposed to be the everyman we walk past in the street.

We learn that she is the daughter of muah chee sellers. We learn that she loves Li Nanxing (particularly his handsome nose), once folded paper stars for a boy she liked, and never quite got the hang of falling in love.

We hear numbers. About how the price of muah chee has increased from 70 cents to $1.20 to $1.50 to $2, and how muah chee take 10 minutes to make.

But at the end of it all, I still did not know her. At best, I could come up with a half-baked CV of Mei’s life, but it does not feel like enough. We know what Mei does, but not who Mei is.

It might have something to do with the fact that the show’s supporting cast overwhelms Mei, who comes across as quiet and unassuming. Though the rest of the characters have less showtime than Mei, they are a lot stronger.

Her mother (Gloria Ng) is quiet and stoic, her neighbour Roslinda (Nureen Raidah) is half-crazed and has no idea where babies come from. Her childhood friend Paul (Luke Kwek) is a dissatisfied, smoking divorced banker, while fictional game show host Dr. Love (Khairul Nizam) is wild, colourful and loud.

Maybe that was the point, that we have to find something extraordinary in the plainly ordinary.

The interactive nature of the show and its many different formats did make it a really fun ride.

When Mei’s father died, we all helped to send her father off by transferring his remains to an urn, and telling him to stay in his new home.

When Mei and Paul began looking for love, audience members were contestants on a dating game show, which came complete with predatory 65-year-old aunties and a man who dates like he is at a job interview.

Something small-scale and interactive like this production really feeds off the energy in the room, and I was fortunate to get a great crowd.

However, as I left the gallery, my mind still lingered on Mei, like the last bits of muah chee on a toothpick. Who is this untouchable fictional character, really? And how would she like to be remembered?

And more importantly, when my turn comes: how would I like to be remembered?

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