Theatre review: Hilarious, snappy inside look at crazy world of theatre

The theatre is a mysterious place, and the audience is often shielded from the cogs and wheels behind the magic coming together on stage.

Groupe ACM's Under Pressure - Temporary Title, which took place yesterday at the Esplanade Theatre Studio, is a snappy, hilarious piece of meta-theatre which peeks behind the curtain to celebrate the tedium, the coffee and the photocopying that goes into pulling a work together.

Although works-in-progress and readings are common, we never see theatre-making quite like this.

Groupe ACM's Helene Francois and Emilie Vandenameele throw themselves at problems like securing sponsorship, placating actors' egos, sorting out crazy rehearsal schedules and keeping track of accounts.

The show blurs the line between reality and fiction, and makes you wonder how much of it is documentary and how much is exaggeration.

The premise of it is as such - Francois and Vandenameele are co-directors of Casimir And Caroline (they really were) which premiered in 2011 (it really did).

Together with an inexperienced cast (the audience), they have to pull together this big-budget show, under an ever building amount of pressure.

The pair created Under Pressure while putting on Casimir And Caroline during a residency at Mains D'Oeuvres theatre.

When the theatre needed a short piece for its festival, they decided to turn their working process into a show.

It makes you wonder, did they really squabble like that? Did someone from their team really throw a tantrum and quit? Did they have to beg for sponsorship?

The script, which was written by the pair, was quick-witted and stylistic. It was filled with interlaced, repeated lines and rapid back-and-forth exchanges which were at times reminiscent of Chinese crosstalk.

The two were also a great pair of physical actors. Vandenameele was more precise and controlled, while Francois was more expressive and aggressive.

Their rapport with the audience was also a big part of the show.

A video of the actual Casimir And Caroline performance played at the start and end of the show, and it did make us feel like we were part of this journey with them.

They also ingratiated themselves with the audience by slipping in local references, such as out-of-the-way rehearsal venues in Woodlands and Seletar, and seeking sponsorship from  ABC Bargain Centre, which touts itself as the cheapest shop in Singapore.

So when they tried to sell us cakes for ("it's sponsorship!"), led us in voice warm-ups and had us blow balloons, we gamely played along.

It made us all feel part of this crazy circus of theatre, even if only for a while.

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