Boom by Jean Tay

This month, it will be ‘Boom’, a play by Jean Tay.

It’s a play in which civil servants wake the dead, corpses are terrified of cremation, old women are besieged in their own homes and ah bengs still dream of being Superman. Oh, and it’s set in 2007, Singapore.

Does this convince you that this play would be interesting?

Well, let me tell you, it’s not. And from here on, it’d be a rant. On just what is wrong with the play.

Firstly, the language.

Alright, it’s not as bad as it could be, since it is still mostly in English, but there’s so much Singlish (Singapore English) in it that it’s hard to read. Especially when every three lines or so, you have to refer to the footnote to understand what is being said, especially in the scenes where two of the main characters are present in. I mean, sure, it makes this authentic, but can’t you just make the whole thing easier to understand by scrapping the Singlish?

And, the characters.

Honestly? They piss me off, especially the main characters. Mother, one of the three main characters I can pick out, is an old hag who clings onto the past so hard that she makes herself unlikeable. She’s so blinded by her past that she absolutely refuse to see her present and her future, her son and her life. She’s so adamant not to move on because of her past, her husband, that she tells her son – her present and her future – to get out and leave her be when he tried to get her to move out of that tattered old apartment that was falling apart, in order for her to be distanced from the past and could possibly move on.

Which brings me to the son, Boon. The main character of this play.

On one hand, it’s clear he’s extremely filial. On the other hand, he’s just so absolutely horrible at being nice to his mother. He’s an active character, sure, one who doesn’t sit around and wait for good fortune, but he’s not, in any way, a character I can sympathize with.

In a way, though, I suppose it was intended. At least, I hope that Jean Tay intended to portray them as one person who is so rooted in the past she can’t accept any changes around her, and another who is so determined to leave the past behind that he makes a point to bury his memories and cut himself off from what he was.

When the¬†characters who are meant to be the ‘bad guys’ are the only ones that are at least tolerable, you have to wonder about the play, though.

The bureaucrats, for instant, are meant to be faceless, nameless people who are ‘for policy, not people.’ but these are the ones that I can actually picture. The Director? For the nation above all. It’s someone you can understand. Colleague? Doing this job voluntarily but not too enthusiastically, perhaps for his family, perhaps for other reasons. Understandable too. Jeremiah, the one who can talk to corpses? Oddball who is pitiful, really. Everyone in the play told him to go away, to scram. Even the corpse. Still better than Boon and Mother. And corpse.

When it comes down to it, though, I suppose it would be good for a one-time read, even if I would totally understand if you would be like my friend and give up on this play after the first page.


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