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Review: BOOM at KXT on Broadway

Review by Andrea Bunjamin

Slanted Theatre’s production of Jean Tay’s Boom centres on the cost of progress and the personal sacrifices that are demanded in the pursuit of what many might view as a ‘prosperous life’. It's the kind of play that asks: What would be more painful? To be forgotten and left behind or to be a burden to the people you love?

We follow an ambitious property agent, Boon (Josephine Lee), as he attempts to convince his stubborn elderly Mother (Tiang Lim) to sell their dilapidated family house. Meanwhile, Jeremiah (Daniel MacKenzie) is given the haunting task of convincing a misidentified corpse (Gerwin Widjaya) to remember his past life and accept the exhumation of his remains to make way for a new development. The story is set during the en bloc craze in Singapore 2008, and dissects the societal value for land and home ownership through an Eastern narrative. In the show’s opening, we are wonderfully introduced to a comedic real estate infomercial that's all about ‘selling a lifestyle’. How the allure of luxury can become the thing we didn’t know we’d need when others place value onto it, or as they say “It’s the details that will make them bite!”

Through Tay’s astonishing writing, we were given a comedic and sorrowful story that oscillates in such a measured way, and I can’t speak highly enough of its plot structure. Directed by Tiffany Wong and produced by Natalie Low, the show authentically marks an important moment in the diversity of contemporary Australian theatre. The use of Hokkien and Singlish slang provides an unmistakably satisfying context to Singapore’s multicultural community, and massive props go to the production’s accent coach, Petrina Kow. As someone from a Chinese-Southeast Asian background, the nostalgia of hearing these phrases is a reminder of how our languages evolve through those shared experiences. Especially since the script frames these slangs in a welcoming way that still allows non-Singaporean audience members to get a sense of their meanings. Personally, the integrated theme of spiritual superstitions into Jeremiah’s arc had really enhanced the comedic parts of the show. It weaves the persistent themes of memory, generational legacy, and heritage from the different connections each character has to one another. Boom plays with the suspension of time to explain the inner thoughts of its characters – through flashbacks we were able to see the Mother’s younger self (Melissa Gan) and the relationship she had with the Young Father (Jordon Zhu). In between those poignant scenes, brief monologues and narrations by Boon and the Mother are present as a channel to express their discontent. While also conveying the different generational standpoints of fulfilment.

Sam Cheng’s sound design and music offers a visceral sensation that is another league of its own. It strongly supports Boom’s sombre and light-hearted moments, while comfortably synching into the dialogue. I will go as far as saying that audience members can easily fallback on the sounds to indicate the emotional undertones of ambiguous scenes. The seamless undertaking of some actors playing various roles was efficiently supported by Rita Naidu’s costumes. The clear solid lighting tones by Luna Ng were integral in indicating the shifts in time, particularly the singular flashing lightbulb in the Mother’s tree. Aloma Barnes’s blending of the natural and concrete set to symbolise the home has been carefully accompanied by other props that reflect the Mother – overgrown plants, a cabinet of old trinkets, moulds on the walls. At the centre of it all, is a rectangular moveable set piece that resembles a grave but also serves as a versatile prop in every scene. With that being said, I do think that greater attention to detail could have been made into that particular set item, considering that the rest of the props we see have been so beautifully put together.

Overall, Boom lets us ponder over the things and people we tend to hold onto in life. In a world where the temptation of monetary gain glazes over everything, it reminds us that there is never a straightforward answer.

Image Supplied


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