So last Thursday evening, I went to watch “The campaign to confer the Public Service Star on JBJ” with some colleagues. Some things I think I think:
- It was a really witty two-act play. In the first act, David Lee, President of the Association of Students for Self-expression (ASS, which of course was the hook for several pun-ny jokes) started a campaign to confer the Public Service Star on JBJ. As it turned out, it did not matter that he was campaigning for a JBJ who had nothing to do with opposition parties (his JBJ was being lauded for contributing to the protection of flora and fauna). No one would touch his campaign, not even his JBJ. There was this hilarious scene in which he called his JBJ’s organisation and tried to convince the paranoid female receptionist that he was sincere about his campaign, not trying to make trouble for her boss. In what came as a surprise to me, David died at the end of the first act.
- In the second act, a high-flying civil servant tried to manage the news item that was David’s death – that is, the death of a student activist who was ostensibly campaigning to confer a top public service award on someone with the same initials as an opposition party leader. The act unraveled as a spot-on caricature of the civil service – a discussion between the civil servant and a police inspector, who was investigating the case and expecting a memo about what conclusion to write in his report, was laugh-out-loud funny and laser-precise. More than that, the act was a well-sketched portrait of an accomplished Singaporean civil servant with a diamond-hard exterior, and her sacrifices.
- The structure of the play was interesting. In the first act, Rodney Oliveiro played David Lee’s role, while Pam Oei inimitably played a kaleidoscope of characters, from David Lee’s feisty, always-ready-with-a-witticism sidekick to the many receptionists David called during his campaign. In the second act, Pam Oei played the steely high-flier Clara Tang, while Rodney Oliveiro was the one who flitted back and forth among roles as Clara’s proud-of-his-humble-beginnings immediate boss, the new-to-the-new-civil-service rookie police inspector, Clara’s cynical news columnist boyfriend, her almost Kumar-ish gay PR guru and a shadowy behind-the-scenes higher-up. Both actors were excellent and accomplished.
- I have not done the play justice with my half-baked review, not by any means, so do go watch it if you’re interested. There are still shows at 3pm and 8pm today and tomorrow.
- It was a nice touch that the real JBJ was among the audience. He was introduced after the play to generous applause. I don’t know whether he was invited or just happened to turn up.
Also saw two university classmates that evening, one I knew quite well and spoke to, one whose name I forgot and therefore did not speak to. (Of course, I remember her name now – both her actual name and what she prefers to be called.)