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22 Sep 2005


"Yes! Primal desire - that's unchanging! Every man from Paris to China feels the same urgent stirring in his loins." That's the Marquis de Sade for you. Quills by Luna-id is an enjoyably unsettling piece of intellectual stimulation. You don't have to worry about protection for this one.

Quills (by Doug Wright) R(A)18
Presented by Luna-id Theatre
Director: Samantha Scott-Blackhall
Cast: Rehaan Engineer, Lim Kay Tong, Daniel Jenkins, Janice Koh, Mariel Reyes, Karen Tan
Date: 16 - 25 Sep, 2005

The notorious author of sexplicit masterpieces Justine and 120 days of Sodom, and the subject of Doug Wright's award-winning play, the Marquis de Sade holds some rather uncompromising opinions regarding matters of bees and flowers.

Set in the Charenton Asylum in eighteen-century France, Quills is a fictionalised account of the incarceration of the Marquis de Sade. Having scandalised respectable society with his blatantly libertine way of life and his salacious writings, the Marquis was banished by Emperor Bonaparte to the harsh confinements of Charenton.

You don't have to be familiar with the oeuvre of the Marquis to appreciate the philosophising on stage when the Marquis debates with Charenton's resident shrink, the Abbe de Coulmier, over issues such as the freedom of expression and artists' moral responsibility. The play is much more than that - anyone who has ever felt the brunt of societal discrimination would be able to empathise with the plight of the Marquis.

Is it madness, or are we witnessing the manifestation of a creative power whose ingenuousness is beyond our provincial comprehension? This is the delicious ambiguity behind the richly written character of the Marquis and played with bravado by stage veteran Rehaan Engineer. Quills is also the first local production featuring full frontal male nudity (sorry girls, next year perhaps?), and I must say the results of this auspicious debut are pretty, ahem, impressive It does make one wonder what else the Singapore audience have been missing all these years Certainly not In The Bedroom.

Reehan Engineer is indeed a force to be reckoned with - cutting a strapping figure (both in and out of costumes) his marquis was a commanding stage presence and a debonair literary genius inhabiting a realm of prosodic prescience that transcends the impoverished understanding of those around him. He articulately appropriated the precision of Doug Wright's writings and characterisation.

In fact the acting was pitch-perfect all round. The ever-reliable Lim Kay Tong simmered with dark nefarious thoughts in a sustained largo of a performance as the hypocritical Doctor Royer Collard, de Sade's nemesis and captor in Charenton. Special mention has to be made in advert to Moment Queen Janice Koh, who made a brief but truly unforgettable appearance as the Madame Royal Collard - she put the capital V back into vamp, and a capital F back into femme in her playful portrayal of a "woman of considerable appetites." Daniel Jenkins' Abbe was an empathetic performance that marked the gradual corruption of a God-loving soul with great sensitivity and energy, and was probably the most emotionally affecting performance that night, aside from Engineer's Marquis.

Kudos to Samantha Scott-Blackhall, who has once again added another feather into her cap with the highly imaginative direction she brought to Quills. It was a beautifully, beautifully designed set that I witnessed, a la Grand Guignol de-constructed in the hands of Lily Savage, and the stage movement was a well-lubricated affair - precise, never masturbatory. I especially liked the fantasy sequence where a clever use of stage smoke helped facilitate the phantasmagoric appearance and disappearance of the characters.

One word of advice while watching Quills: leave your inhibitions at the door. It is an emotional hard-on that endures long after the heart has climaxed itself. Sauna queens might want to disobey their regime for a night and head down to the DBS Centre for the Arts instead. Who knows, you might just get lucky there.

For Fridae's interview with Rehaan Engineer, click here.

Quills will be staged September 16 - 25, 2005, at 8pm (except Sundays). Matinees on weekends at 3pm (except Saturdays) at the DBS Arts Centre - Home Of The SRT, 20 Merbau Road, Robertson Walk, Singapore 239035. Tickets are at $47 & $42 (Evening Performances), $37 & $32
(Matinee Performances). Fridae readers enjoy a 15% discount off tickets prices when you get your tickets from Sistic counter/hotline booking with the password "Be Swallowed. Be Succumbed." Tickets available at all SISTIC outlets. Call SISTIC Hotline 6348 5555 or visit www.sistic.com.sg.

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