Drama Centre Black Box
Holiday In My Head, a series of short plays by Dean Lundquist, was originally conceived as a showcase for his various plays. The challenge then for Lundquist has been to retroactively unite a series of plays that were never intended to be presented as a singular body of work.
Christmas is Lundquist's chosen medium to accomplish this, and he does so with relative success. Not all of the plays are thematically based around the festive season, but Lundquist incorporates this motif by rippling colours of red and blue throughout the sets and costumes - even the bleakly stark setup of the final play is accented by a duo of tiny red and green plants on a desk.
Holiday In My Head is bookended with some amount of discordance - the first few plays are generally amusing (some more so than others) but as with the final play, the Joy of Solitude, they seem more like standalone pieces.
Holiday In My Head really starts to find its groove with Christmas Bonus, a sweet and funny piece about Faith, played to gawkishly endearing perfection by Amanda Tee, who remains effusively positive in her quest to bring some holiday spirit to her boss despite her own worries about being a single mother in Singapore. The sparky Tee and Chio Su-Ping (as Faith's boss Jackie) are by far the most fun pairing of the night.
As with Lundquist's other plays, Christmas Bonus is a light-hearted piece that briefly skims the surface of a heftier issue - in this case, the relative lack of government support for unwed mothers in Singapore - before speeding into the more effervescent territory of zingy one-liners, entendres and puns. No one is a bad guy, not even deadbeat boyfriends, and true to the holiday spirit, everyone finds their happiness.
In some of the other pieces like Finger Food (the woes of a fork and spoon) and Holy Toast (a Catholic schoolgirl consults her priest about marrying her Jewish boyfriend), Lundquist's predilection towards witticism feels rather gratuitous or, as with Faith in the Super Bowl (a bowl of alphabet cereal prophesies the future), the light-heartedness veers into pointlessness.
But Christmas Bonus is a well-balanced piece, and also one where Lundquist starts to draw the threads of this world together, with recurring characters and references to various occurrences in the other plays. These pepper the rest of the plays as each one starts to flow more seamlessly into the next, and the audience has great fun piecing together the events, trying to see how everything fits together like a game of Tetris.
Holiday In My Head ends, as mentioned, with the Joy Of Solitude, an absurdist play about a man conversing with his older self after being locked into his room for all eternity. The Joy Of Solitude is a solemn piece that ponders life and loneliness, and so fully embraces its surrealism that it dresses its characters as the subject of Son of Man, the famous painting by surrealist artist René Magritte - red tie, bowler hat and all.
It's obvious that Lundquist is very proud of it, and it showcases the uniformly excellent Paul Lucas' skills as he rises to the task of embodying several different personas. At the same time it's jarringly different from the rest of the series, and ends the night with a muted 'Merry Christmas' rather than continuing the feel-good nature of the pieces before it.
It's like drinking one of those saccharine, dessert-masquerading-as-coffee Gingerbread Lattes and finding out that someone slipped in a shot of absinthe right at the bottom of the cup - you're not sure if you like it, you're sure it shouldn't be there, but it sends you on your way home with a buzz. And that's not something to complain about.
Holiday In My Head
Where: Drama Centre Black Box, National Library Building, Level 5, 100 Victoria Street
When: Till Dec 13, 8pm; 3pm (Sat & Sun)
Admission: $37 onwards from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)