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6 Nov 2006

the seven-month itch: nov 8-12

Here's a gay play with a difference: the audience gets to choose the ending. After seven months in a committed relationship, Jason cheats on his boyfriend Daniel, having unprotected sex with a stranger. Can the relationship survive the consequences? You decide. Presented by The Necessary Stage (Singapore) in conjunction with Action For AIDS.

Have you ever seen a drama serial so annoying that you wished you could walk on screen to kick some damn sense into the characters? The Seven-Month Itch by The Necessary Stage lets you do just that - it's an interactive play, so audience members get to jump in and make decisions for the heroes.

Daniel Yeo and Timothy Nga play Daniel and Jason, two gay men who've been boyfriends for seven months before the latter meets a man in a club and they have unprotected sex. Will he have the courage to get an HIV test? Will he confess his unfaithfulness to his partner? Audiences can interrogate actors (hotseating), suggest certain courses of action (playback theatre), or march in and replace the main character themselves to change a course of action (forum theatre).
The story's centered on the lives of Jason and Daniel, two gay men who've been boyfriends for seven months. One night, Jason meets a man in a club and they have unprotected sex. He regrets the decision, but what's done is done - will he have the courage to get an HIV test? Will he confess his unfaithfulness to his partner?

"AFA (Action For AIDS) approached us and asked us to do something targeted at the MSM (men who have sex with men) community," explains Haresh Sharma, the resident playwright of the theatre group. "So we decided okay, we'll do it forum style."

This means that after 30 minutes of scripted drama, presenting the initial problem, audiences can interrogate actors (hotseating), suggest certain courses of action (playback theatre), or march in and replace the main character themselves to change a course of action (forum theatre). There's no pre-written ending; your fellow actors will have to respond to your onstage decisions by improvising according to character. It's an especially empowering form of drama, since it provides a controlled setting for people to take charge of problems they could easily face themselves in the future.

Theatregoers in Singapore should already be familiar with The Necessary Stage, with its long legacy of social and experimental drama, tackling a range of topics including religion, HDB apartment living, terrorism and the tsunami. In 1993, the company was instrumental in introducing forum theatre to Singapore. Their twin productions of Mixed Blessings and MCP addressed issues of interracial romance and violence against women respectively, and gained extremely positive responses from the public.

In 1994, however, forum theatre was banned in Singapore due to its origins among Marxist activists who used it to instruct the poor on how to fight for their land rights. But since 2001, forum theatre's been revived by the company in projects like Dreaming Up a Prince, which forced youth and social workers to discuss the issues of (snigger) pre-marital heterosexual sex.

While The Seven-Month Itch will underscore the need for HIV safety, Sharma promises it won't be done in a puritan spirit. "We're not just doing it for education," he emphasises. "I've written the play in a way that will hopefully speak very closely to the gay community. There's the issue of protected and unprotected sex, of course, but it's also about a betrayal of the relationship. The play will deal with HIV issues, but in a more personal way. We're not making it didactic, like a pamphlet. In drama you can have humour and emotional investment."

The play follows as one among several plays about gay life and HIV in The Necessary Stage's production history. Back in 1999 they presented the groundbreaking work Completely With/Out Character, performed by and based on the life of Paddy Chew, an openly bisexual and HIV-positive Singaporean man. And in 2004, they presented Mardi Gras and Top or Bottom, a play in two chapters about gay Singaporeans attempting to hold a gay pride parade and come to terms with death, performed as part of festivities around Fridae's Nation.IV.

The Seven-Month Itch is written by Haresh Sharma and directed by Aidli 'Alin' Mosbit, with audience interaction facilitated by company artistic director Alvin Tan. It'll be performed the second week of November by the rather luscious Timothy Nga, Danny Yeo and Peter Sau.

The Necessary Stage and Action for Aids present:
The Seven-Month Itch (18 and above)
Produced by The Necessary Stage
Date: 8 - 12 November 2006
Time: 8pm
Venue: Mox Caf and Bar, 21 Tanjong Pagar Road
Tickets: $22 & $18 [concessions for students, NSF, senior citizens] Excludes $1 Gatecrash handling fee
Available at www.GATECRASH.com.sg, or call GATECRASH Hotline 6222 5595. Tickets are also available at all SingPost Branches & S.A.M. Kiosks.

Reader's Comments

1. 2006-11-06 21:41  
Fantastic effort, great way of interaction and marvellous topic. Arrgghhh... so wish that I am in Singapore right now rather than two months later. Hmm... I am just wondering will there be a post play? *wishfully thinkiing*
2. 2006-11-06 23:00  
hhmm, i wish i could watch it too...

great to see stuff like this going on in singapore.
3. 2006-11-07 10:36  
thought about doing a tour up in seoul? I think alot of people here could identify with the characters in this play. Would be a good chance for some guys to face the facts in their own relationships, and educate others at the same time: )
4. 2006-11-07 11:57  
Would really love to see it with my boyfriend. But I might not be able to get back home to singapore on time for the show cus I am overseas at the moment.Do hope they have encore shows :P
5. 2006-11-07 17:58  
A good ending would be..Daniel dies of AIDS. Whilst Jason is caught by the police for having sex with an underaged boy of three years of age.Jason is sentenced to life imprisonmentand 100 strokes of the cane. He tries to commit suicide but fails every time.Leter in jail,Jason is brutally raped by 50 men and dies of serious internal bleeding.
6. 2006-11-08 22:55  
ber boring.
7. 2006-11-09 12:30  
i think its too simplistic to end by 'punishing' both characters. infidelity is something that cuts across sexuality and has its own specificities. with the possiblility of hiv it becomes even harder to point at a definite conlusion in the face of love/longterm affection. i think TNS has been much daring again and have taken on a very much appreciated stand to explore such real and intimate issues to the gay community in detail here. Allowing for other communities to have a say subtlely highlights the real complex fusion of love, desire and human nature.

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