by Joel Tan
The Esplanade: The StudiosSingtel Waterfront Theatre, Singapore
Ten years since it was written, Joel Tan's darkly comic portrait of millennial angst crackles brilliantly in this taut, assured revival as part of the The Studios 2023 season, themed around our relationship with land.
The action revolves around Sharon, an entitled twenty-something who refuses to be defined by her job and has staged a "memorialisation" of a mosaic playground in Ang Mo Kio on the eve of its demolition. She's armed with slogans, snacks and speeches but nobody has turned up for the event apart from her disinterested boyfriend and a sassy best friend. That is, until a stranger swings by with his own stories to share.
Joel Tan's dialogue is smooth and spicy, deliciously lampooning the self-righteous indignation of the millennial generation who feel they wear the world's weight on their shoulders and take every opportunity to lash out at the establishment. Sharon's empty words about the destruction of national icons and lack of any tangible connection with the playground she seeks to commemorate are contrasted with the real, authentic memories of Rong Cheng, the stranger who grew up in the estate and simply wants to say goodbye to a cherished symbol of his childhood.
Director Tan Shou Chen keeps things flowing smoothly and the brightly coloured playground takes on an almost phantasmagoric feel, surrounded by a sea of leaves. Retaining its 2015 setting, it almost becomes a memory play. I couldn't help wondering if these characters would feel the same way today. Perhaps, like me, they have become older and more pragmatic, learning when to let go.
The quartet of young actors are a joy to watch with strong performances by Coco Wang Ling as the loquacious Sharon and André Chong as the gauche but earnest Rong Cheng who emerges as the play's emotional centre. While remaining fairly flippant on the surface, Mosaic is a play that throws up thorny questions about memory, relationships and the value of nostalgia in an ever-changing world.
The Crystalwords score: 3.5/5