Interview / Theatre

Interview: The Director and Cast of ‘Boom’

– By Hariz B.

For director Derrick Chew, staging the well-known Jean Tay play Boom is more than just about the money. Even though this is a side-line gig for him (Derrick has a day job doing PR and advertising), it’s clear that there’s something stronger and inherent that is driving him to direct Boom. It’s a passion rarely seen these days, especially for a young company like Sight Lines Productions which was only established last year and has only staged one other play, Trainstopping, in April this year.

When asked about the decision to direct Boom, first staged in 2008, Derrick shares how he had gone through an en bloc sale himself when he was younger. This, coupled with his time in the Ministry of Home Affairs during his National Service, allowed him to “understand all the jokes and the humour that [playwright] Jean was heading towards, essentially the direction about the civil service”.

(From left) Director Derrick Chew, Andrew Lua / Boon and Fanny Kee / Mother

To Andrew Lua, Boom also serves as a critique of relationships, a result of the play’s universality. The actor, who plays the role of protagonist Boon, has never experienced an en bloc sale himself, but believes that the play’s presentation of a mother/son relationship adds to its relevance. ‘It is an examination on the dynamics between the old and young, a struggle between how we want them to change and keep up to date, and what they do and how we should respond to that.”

But as they talk more about their motivations for staging the play, you can tell Boom is more than than just a personal stake or expounding on relationships. In light of all the redevelopment and restructuring going on in Singapore as the country continues and accelerates its modernisation, there is a belief from the team at Sight Lines Productions that Boom will answer “a call for help” the affected minority may have. Fanny Kee hopes that after watching the play, audiences will spare a thought for these people when going about their daily lives and “think about how change can affect other people, and to seriously consider the minority – the few whose voices cannot be heard because the majority are so loud”. The actress reprises her role as Mother and while she is no stranger to the script, the four-year break and Andrew’s refreshing take on her son Boon allows for a new experience playing her character.

The play also answers another call, a call for more accessible local theatre. Since Boom is an ‘O’-Level literature text in many secondary schools, it is Derrick’s hope that students will watch the play and realize how great theatre can be. “We want to introduce it to them, and we want to start early and get them interested in the arts.” This is a commendable effort, as theatre in Singapore has always been viewed as a luxury, or something that only the wealthy can enjoy. The decision to have post-show discussions with students underscores the company’s commitment to retaining the younger theatre audience.

“We hope the play will make them think about how change can affect other people, and to seriously consider the minority – the few whose voices cannot be heard because the majority are so loud.”

The plan to restage the play came together easily, according to Derrick. Being friends with Jean certainly helped, as he constantly sought clarification and advice from the playwright. “The beauty of doing a local play and with a local playwright who’s still young, is that she’s still alive and you can just always go to her and bug her,” he laughs. After roping in Fanny, Derrick claims that they “[had] everything already.”

Fanny is not the only talent familiar to this production. Sight Lines Productions also managed to get their hands on the same 2008 set as well as the team of sound designers who involved in the original production. Derrick however guarantees a different, more minimalistic experience, that seeks to “challenge [the designers] further”. He also explains how the set mirrors the reality of the situation in Singapore and cannot stick to what it was:

“Five years have passed and more things are being torn down and rebuilt, just like the concept that we’re going for. So the set cannot be static nor naturalistic. It needs to keep morphing and keep changing. That is basically what Singapore is – we’re always changing and always morphing.”

The company’s dedication to keeping its play real and relevant is further reflected in the team’s visit to a site that is undergoing its own kind of morphing – the soon to be destroyed Bukit Brown Cemetery. The visit allowed the cast to understand better the significance people bestow on spaces, and how fragile this is, particularly in rapidly changing Singapore. “The tombs have so much story, so much link to the present. They’re not just bodies or ornaments. They belong to someone, they were someone. But once we remove that, no relatives, no tombstone reminder, we’ve erased that person, period. For me, that’s sad,” Fanny says.

There seems to be no reason to doubt this upcoming production by Sight Line Productions. With a tight focus and impressive dedication, the company looks poised to put up one heck of a show.

Boom runs from 29th June to 8th July at the DBS Arts Centre, Home of SRT. Tickets available from Sistic.

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