Cooling Off Day by Alfian Sa’at
Alfian Sa’at is someone whose reputation often precedes him. However, this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have anything to show for all the attention that both fans and critics have been piling on him. Whether it be poetry, play, or prose, he’s definitely got a way with words that compels people to sit up and pay attention.
For the recent Man Singapore Theatre Festival 2011, Alfian Sa’at decides to take on the recent watershed 2011 General Elections, and pieces together a pastiche of a play comprising various interviews with characters ranging from retirees and students to social workers and bloggers. The broad range of social backgrounds presented allows him to explore the implications and ramifications of the elections from all points of views, an ingenious method as it immediately endears itself to the audience, who thus find the play instantly relatable.
Another reason why the play was such a hit was because of how funny it was. There is no lack of parodies and snide commentaries online regarding each of the election candidates, some bear the brunt more than others. However, when translated onto stage and condensed into a performance, the ludicrous nature of the some of the events that transpired during the campaign is heightened. From whining and foot stamping to nyonya kuehs and Tanjong Pagar GRC, each anecdote generates its fair share of hearty laughs.
However, the play wasn’t so much of a narrative as it was just plain recollection. While it certainly did reignite in me the sense of fervor and excitement that I experienced during the elections, moments of true introspection were few and far between. Whilst entertaining, I’m unsure as to what I’ve really taken away from the performance that I didn’t know already.
Nevertheless, the success of the play is not to be undermined and there have already been talks of restaging it within the next six months. The reception of the play then, without reliance on preexisting hype that still surrounds the elections and its candidates, would tell us whether it really is a timeless, commendable performance in its own right.
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