What Big Bombs You Have: Paparazzi 2019

What do you do when you see unattended boxes lying around? 

We’ve heard enough MRT safety announcements to know that we should report it, but we hold on to the hope that the box is just a box. In Paparazzi’s adaptation of Haresh Sharma’s What Big Bombs You Have, the box was a bomb, a way to hide a murder victim and a coffin. 

Paparazzi is Wee Kim Wee School’s annual theatre production. The production, with its ever-relevant themes of acts of terror and the complexity of blended and broken families, gave life to the original play written in 2005. The four main characters Mother, Uncle, Boy and Girl go through struggles that they try to bottle up, only for everything to reach a breaking point.

Directors Sue Yu and Alia Alkaff, both Year 2 students, kept only the 4 main characters and the main gist of the story, rewriting the rest of the entire script. The play gives the audience time to understand each character, somehow allowing me to empathise with even the ill-tempered stepfather who mistreats his wife and eventually kills his innocent stepdaughter. He is painted as a man who makes mistakes, but is sorry over them. A man who gets heated easily but does not stop providing. A man

The charming dynamic between the siblings made me smile to myself. They fought over who had to wash the dishes, yet turned protective upon noticing others hurting one of them. I almost forgot that under the school uniforms and tight pigtails, these were Year 2 students from WKW. 

Some scenes were orchestrated with ticking sounds in the background that alluded to time bombs, inducing apprehension in the audience as though it was only a matter of time until the countdown ends. The characters’ movements followed the tempo of the ticking and the sinister intentions of Uncle towards Girl were made clear, as the space between them became uncomfortably small. 

In hindsight, I now notice how violence was a recurring theme in the performance it is in the shows they watch, the games Boy plays, and the videos of fights the children watch on Stomp (which featured an unfortunate guest appearance by Uncle). When Boy finally unveils the bomb that he had been making, he detonates the bomb, killing what is left of his family, if you can call it family by that point.

As acts of terror rise globally, there is a fear that has seeped through news channels and Facebook posts, into our minds. A feeling that consumes us, that nowhere is safe, not even our own homes. What Big Bombs You Have has reminded me that the issue of terror acts runs deeper than gun law reform, or more stringent MRT checks. It lies in the tortured minds of perpetrators who are fogged up by their own experiences. It has made me wonder, just how much more peaceful the world would be if our homes could always be a source of love. Maybe then, we could have a blast, of a different sort. 

What Big Bombs You Have has been another stunning success for Paparazzi with sold-out shows for all four of their performances at NLB’s Black Box. The actors stayed so true to their characters that when they all came out at the end to receive their well-deserved applause, it felt strange to see them, all smiles with joined hands, mere minutes after conveying a tension-filled performance. Even after leaving the performance venue, the aftertaste of the play stuck with me. As I travelled home and listened once again to the MRT safety announcement, I inevitably ponder the possibility that an unattended bag could really mean something more.

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