Review:06:58 by The Rooftop Collective 19/8/16

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Started in 2016, The Rooftop Collective aims to “harness the power of collaboration”, creating new devised, interdisciplinary works.  06:58 is their virgin production, with the title referring to the time of day. (Coincidentally its exactly my normal alarm time as well)
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Directed by NYU theatre major Sim Yan Ying, 06:58 explores the daily morning rituals of the millennial generation. From struggling to stop hitting the snooze button, scrolling through Facebook for the ‘news’, to the daily decision of what to wear, Rooftop covers it all. The onstage cast of Jay Ong (Music Director), Ellen Zeng (Movement director), Rachel Gan (dancer) and Lim Shien Hian (actor) each played to their own respective strengths, first playing the routine straight, before expanding on the routine in a second movement, in an extensive exploration of each individual action.
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06:58 is also interesting in that it was staged in the Substation Gallery (not the theatre), which was originally designed as a visual art space. The stage was vertical, and longer than it was wide, allowing for a very different direction from a typical black box space. As an experimental piece of theatre, I was interested to see how they would maneuver around these unconventional limitations. Although it started slow, 06:58 picked up the pace in the second movement, once the exploration phase began and the background music started up.
The entire sequence of the first scene was placed under the close scrutiny of the audience, each individual action becoming an opportunity for a more open ended presentation. The team utilised a mix of art forms to achieve this, from video projection to interpretive dance to live music (Jay really showcases his wide repertoire). A morning shower becomes a full on karaoke and dance session, and even preparing breakfast becomes a game of Simon Says where each word corresponds to an action the ensemble performs onstage everytime a disembodied voice speaks it.
One of the more interesting scenes saw the stage transform into a makeshift fashion runway, representing the dilemma of deciding on the outfit of the day. The ensemble seemed to be having a ball of a time catwalking and posing fabulously in mundane clothing, complete with high energy music, which was honestly one of the best uses of the space throughout the performance. Kudos must be given to Jay Ong in this scene, who stole the show with his over the top poses and total commitment to the role. I was also impressed with the music director’s decision to include playing live saxophone onstage (played by Jay as well), and the appropriate choices of sound and music to accompany the action.
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More often than not though, 06:58 felt like a slightly disjointed whirlwind of ideas the collective came up with. My main gripe was that as an audience member, although the scenes were relatable, the general nature and universality of the theme weakened its ability to anchor and draw the audience in, creating a very distanced and cold viewing of the performance, rather than one that would make you actively wonder and care what was going to happen next. Although a narrative isn’t necessary in theatre, the somewhat raw performance could still have benefited from more editing and tightening, and to me, overstayed a better runtime and conclusion with the inclusion of the third movement. The performance actually might have served better if it had been presented as a workshop instead, and felt more like a work in progress than a final, complete piece.
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That being said, the Rooftop Collective certainly holds potential, and many of the ideas explored in the second movement could very easily have been transposed to a full theatrical production to add new layers and nuance. What 06:58 is then, is a taster of the wealth of possibility these young theatre makers still have for the local arts scene, although it’s more the cobbling together of parts than a fully realized whole. Considering they completed the devising and rehearsal process in a month, it would be interesting to see how they take this first experience and apply it to their next collaboration, going above and beyond a mere exploration into something a little more compelling, and a little more exciting. These are people who are aware of where their strengths lie, and they should continue to capitalize on their individual strengths and work towards producing a truly cohesive whole.
06:58 plays till 20 August, 3pm and 8pm. Tickets available from Peatix, or at the door. 

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