Boom - KXT on Broadway (NSW)
Written by Jean Tay. Directed by Tiffany Wong 黃寶珠 .
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
KXT on Broadway, Ultimo
Until 21st October
- A thoughtful piece of theatre directed with a soft touch to exhume notions of memory that are very close to home -
Slanted Theatre Co have gone from strength to strength in recent years with their focus on telling stories honing in on Eastern perspectives, told by Eastern voices. The latest addition to their repertoire, Boom by London-based Singaporean, Jean Tay, is a clear example of their culmination of the last few years' work. The result is a piece of theatre that is both humorous and sharply poignant, told with intimacy and heart that is a must watch on your list of independent theatre productions.
Tay’s 2009 play digs up the commercial focus on land and real estate, set in Singapore where the property market is just as lecherous in the hands of investors and real estate agents as it is here in Australia. Tiong Boon (Josephine Lee) is set on pushing his mother out of his childhood home, with dreams of leaving behind scars that have festered. Mdm Ong (Tiang Lim) refuses time and again to leave, the sentimental value of her home outweighing the monetary value stated by the vultures that circle. Meanwhile, Jeremiah (Daniel MacKenzie) a department worker for land and property is entrapped in a conversation with the corpse of Mr. Chan (Gerwin Widjaja) who refuses to allow landowners to exhume his corpse and be cremated, but unfortunately cannot remember who exactly he is.
The cast of Boom at KXT on Broadway (2023). Credit: Sherry Zheng
Under the care of director Tiffany Wong, Tay’s writing is equal parts playful and biting, rich with social commentary in how we approach the idea of one’s home, the notions of heritage and ultimately, our connection to others through memory. Wong has proved herself to be a strong voice in the theatrical sphere in putting POC voices at the forefront of her work, bringing a culturally strong voice and perspective to the indie theatre scene. With Boom, Wong directs a stellar cast that truly has no weak link within it. Allowing Tay’s fluency in mixed dialects to be both understood and welcoming, Wong has focused on embracing audiences of all kinds into the space.
Luna Ng’s lighting design brings a warmth into Mdm Ong’s home, whilst contrasting the sharp trauma of Tiong's past with beating bulbs, crossing the world of memories together. Aloma Barne’s set design visualises the motif of Mdm Ong’s beloved fig tree, whilst physicalising the idea of making roots and the difficulty to uproot our lives entrenched with memory. Meanwhile Sam Cheng’s sound design offers an evocative soundscape from the crackling of a fire, through to the breaking of a branch and the titular booming echo in the character’s minds.
...there is much to be reflected on here as we consider our approach to each other, the land we stand on, and what exactly we value in our lives.
Lim’s Mdm Ong is scene stealer, breaking hearts in her outright refusal to leave her home which falls time and again on deaf ears, before swiftly making us belly laugh with sharp one liners that only a mother can make. MacKenzie’s poor Jeremiah and his task of helping a frazzled corpse provided constant giggles and bouts of relief from the tension of other scenes. Natalie Low, Jordan Zhu and Melissa Gan provide moments of humour and heart in the multiple roles they play, with Gan taking on swift costume changes, while Low held the audience in her hand through her comedic characteristics.
Whilst the story of Boom is set a near world away from Sydney audiences, the direction from Wong and the entire Slanted Theatre team show a depth of resonance to the present. Offering belly laughs, as well as soft and tender moments of emotion, there is much to be reflected on here as we consider our approach to each other, the land we stand on, and what exactly we value in our lives.
Boom - KXT on Broadway
CAST & CREATIVES
Director Tiffany Wong 黃寶珠
with Melissa Gan 颜丽媛 , Tiang Lim 林珍妮, Josephine Lee, Natalie Low, Daniel MacKenzie, Gerwin Widjaja 黄世德 & Jordon Zhu
Playwright Jean Tay Producer Natalie Low 劉嘉雯 Sound Designer & Composer Sam Cheng 鄭慧敏 Costume Designer Rita Naidu Set Designer Aloma Barnes Lighting Designer & Deputy Stage Manager Luna Ng 吳悅兒 Lighting Technician Capri Harris Production Dramaturg Adam Yoon Fight Director Sam Flack Deputy Stage Manager Jake Fisher Assistant Stage Manager Katie Ord