n.b. I would like to inform my readers that I am currently a project-based intern with Checkpoint Theatre for their upcoming production, The Last Bull: A Life in Flamenco. However, I strongly believe that this does not affect the integrity of my critique. Views expressed are my own.
My Mother Buys Condoms
W!ld Rice, Singapore Theatre Festival 2016
24 July 2016, 3 p.m.
Creative Cube, Lasalle College of the Arts
14 — 24 July 2016
Prior to watching My Mother Buys Condoms, I face a common problem that is familiar to any critic. Having accumulated a sleep debt, I was afraid of not being able to give it my full attention, and assess the best that I could. Playwright Helmi Yusof, who is also an established arts journalist and critic for The Business Times, makes my job easy by peppering his debut play with witty punch lines; puns on swear words; and hilarious comedy of errors sequences.
Unfortunately he offers little else, especially when it comes to exploring the sexuality of an older woman.
The set-up of Raju (Ramesh Panicker), an air-conditioner repairman, taking English classes from retired literature teacher Maggie (Lok Meng Chue) because he wants to read crime reports in the newspaper is improbable. Additionally, the acceleration of events to the point when both of them fall in love makes it seem as if Maggie loves Raju simply because he expresses an interest.
Such a shallow plot could be forgiven if Helmi intends for it to be a convenient device to give more space for Maggie to deal with the conflict between her desires and the social mores of society. Yet, when it comes to it, all Maggie does is to ask, “Why not?” She does not offer an argument, or try to show the flawed logic of her detractors. Instead, she is like a petulant child who asks why regardless of what is said to her.
Coupled with Wong Chee Wai’s intimate set and Julian Wong’s mawkish musical interludes, the feel of the whole show is reminiscent of a popular local ‘90s television sitcom, Under One Roof.
That said, one must not downplay the craft and skill of comedy. Helmi does have a neck for comedy, and this is enhanced by the actors’ (apart from leads, Elnie S. Mashari, Joshua Lim, and Seong Hui Xuan also deserve commendation) ability to keep the comical scenes snappy and energetic.
While My Mother Buys Condoms indicates an encouraging prospect of critics being able to traverse both sides of the footlights, it should not pretend to aspire more than what it is—a light diversion better suited for a variety show.
“My Mother Buys Condoms: Let’s talk about sex and seniors” by Akshita Nanda, The Straits Times Life!
“Grey Pride: A Review of ‘My Mother Buys Condoms’, by W!ld Rice” by Ng Yi-Sheng, The Online Citizen
“Theatre Review (Singapore): ‘My Mother Buys Condoms’ by Helmi Yusof” by Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam, Blog Critics
“My Mother Buys Condoms: Love, Sex And Senior Citizens?” by Reuel Eugene, Reuel Writes
“Sex, ageing, and the courage to be happy” by Alisa Maya Ravindran, Centre 42 Citizens’ Reviews
“My Mother Buys Condoms” by Dawn Teo, Centre 42 Citizens’ Reviews