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Review: Fat Kids Are Harder To Kidnap X Re-Run by How Drama

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Fat on genuine passion, heart and love for Singapore in all her idiosyncrasies. 

After a fantastic sold-out run in 2018, Fat Kids Are Harder to Kidnap X returned this weekend for a second round to give those that missed it the first time (and longtime fans of the show) to immerse themselves completely in “the perfect, quintessentially Singaporean fringe show”.

Directed by Melissa Sim,  the format of Fat Kids is certainly an original one – Ross Nasir, Nicholas Bloodworth, Carina McWhinnie, Victoria Chen and Pavan Singh have just 60 minutes to perform 31 original sketches and playlets (all written by both Sim and Jeremy Au Yong), each one revolving around Singaporean current affairs and news. To make it even more challenging, the order of performances is completely random, with the audience deciding which play to be performed next, with only a title to hint at what it might be about. With the giant timer on stage clearly counting down the minutes, Fat Kids is a genuine test of skill for the cast, as they each don colourful workout gear, from headbands to sports shoes, and ready themselves for what is essentially the Olympics of theatre.

While essentially a re-run of the version presented in 2018, little tweaks and additional sketches have been added to update it for 2019, with new sketches parodying and referencing topical issues as far ranging as Marie Kondo and the Bicentennial, and even the recent resurgence of ‘brownface’ in the media, besides their wealth of greatest hits. Each sketch or playlet comes fast and furious, ranging from soap opera renditions of the Trump-Kim summit to a re-worked rendition of The Greatest Showman’s ‘This Is Me’ to  a single punchline, a fervent, raw energy that buzzes across the entire Esplanade Annexe Studio as the incredibly varied cast of 5 portray just about the entirety of Singaporean archetypes over the performance duration.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Fat Kids is the natural chemistry between the cast, with set and costume changes that transition incredibly smoothly, each member knowing exactly where each prop is located and their entire set of characters in a snap, evidence of the hours of rehearsals put into this show. As hectic as things can get on stage, one sees it as a kind of organised chaos, always cohesive, always coordinated. Compared to last year, previous cast member Jun Vinh Teoh has also been swapped out with Pavan Singh. Both actors have distinctly different styles of performance and different physicalities, putting their own spin on their respective roles, yet, despite this swap, the interpersonal dynamic between Pavan and the rest of cast on stage is maintained admirably, working together to maintain the flow of the performance and perfectly in sync with each other in executing every scene.

Coming for a Friday matinee show, with a mostly school going audience, it’s more obvious than ever that Fat Kids is a labour of love and passionate theatre that can and does appeal to a wide range of audience members. Across all 31 acts, we see sketches from the dramatic to the outright hilarious, with each one speaking to a different group of people, and ensuring that there’s at least a couple of sketches that will resonate with someone. The sketches are rapid fire in delivery, but each one feels complete in itself, giving audiences enough time to absorb and appreciate them, with the cast never feeling like they’re rushing and certainly never compromising on quality.

It’s no wonder the laughs come hard and fast throughout the entire performance, triumphantly and comfortably ending with just a little over a minute left on the clock. As How Drama’s signature performance, it’s a very good one that shows how far passion, good direction and a committed cast can take a company. Once again, Fat Kids X reminds us of the sometimes absurd, sometimes messy, yet utterly, undeniably Singaporean issues that give us our identity, and just how fun or funny they can be when we dare laugh at ourselves. How Drama knows exactly what they want with this show, and from the thunderous applause, whoops and cheers as they cast takes their bows, they’ve achieved it with flying colours.

Performance attended 16/8/19 (Matinee)

Fat Kids Are Harder to Kidnap X plays from 16th to 18th August 2019 at the Esplanade Annexe Studio. Tickets are sold out. 

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