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--- insight777 (7/6/2012)
CENTRAL location. Unblocked view. Three-bedroom. Top floor. Near MRT. Near good schools. These are words that would induce heart palpitations and delirium among newly married house-hunting couples.

But for Mrs Ong (played by Fannie Kee), they just spell trouble. She's already in her 60s and nursing a bad back, and she is not about to trade her home of 30 years for a brand new one, even if it has all the fancy features above.

No Ma'am, Mrs Ong just wants to stay put right where she is, so she can live out the rest of her days in the apartment that holds all the memories of her husband, who vanished without a trace some 20 years ago.

Unfortunately, her son Boon (Andrew Lua) is a ne'er-do-well property agent who dreams of luxurious penthouses, designer decor and swimming pools.

So when some fellow residents want to put the old condominium up for en bloc sale, he immediately tries to persuade his mother to sell their unit for a fat profit and buy a new apartment elsewhere.

He asks not-so-innocently: "Don't you want an amazing view of the sea?"

She replies all-too-quickly: "It makes me want to vomit."

At the heart of Jean Tay's acclaimed 2008 play Boom, currently being restaged by Sight Line Productions, lies the central question often posed in land-scarce Singapore: At what price, progress? How many places holding our hearts and memories must give way to high-rise developments before the nation goes into some form of collective amnesia?

Though written four years ago just after the height of the en bloc fever of 2006 and 2007, Boom still retains its sentimental charm and thoughtful resonance. The property market is cooler now compared to those heady years, but the tug-of-war between memories and money continues for some Singaporeans torn between the need to remain and the need to reboot.

Unexpectedly though, the re-staging of Boom sees a different aspect of the play come to the fore. On the back of the Bukit Brown controversy, it is the play's macabre parallel narrative about a civil servant who can talk to the dead that takes on additional resonance.

Jeremiah (played by Erwin Shah Ismail) is a government scholar with a strange gift. Sent by the Land Ministry to inspect cemeteries marked for exhumation, he begins a curious conversation with a buried corpse (Vincent Tee) who protests loudly against being dug up and cremated: "Die one time already! No more!... Le xiao ah?"

Topicality aside, the new production directed by Derrick Chew is a competent one - even if it lacks the fresh urgency of the 2008 production and the star power of the original cast that included Sebastian Tan, Chua Enlai and Brendon Fernandez.

Here, the stand-out performances by Kee, Erwin as well as Amanda Tee, who plays a smattering of supporting roles, keep the play pacy and lively - even if lead actor Lua struggles to show a wider range of emotions.

One surprising star of the new production is Wong Chee Wai's sleek set design, which comprises several walls of flat reflective panels. As the set folded and unfolded like a Chinese puzzle box, it created the interiors and exteriors of homes and offices and even graveyards.

Indeed, it's a pity the set is not an actual living space - its stylish versatility and space-saving features would certainly help Singapore solve some of its land-scarcity problems.

Boom plays at the DBS Arts Centre tonight at 8pm, and on Saturday and Sunday at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets from $40 available from Sistic or at the door

Source: Business Times

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