Checkpoint Theatre’s Frago, written by Lucas Ho, ran at the Drama Centre Black Box from 13 to 23 July 2017.
Frago is about Reservists in Singapore and their observations of being 30-something and having to deal with partners, marriage, babies, jobs and buying assets.
In the army, “Frago” stands for Fragmentary Order, a military term that means one is meant to ignore previous commands and follow the new urgent directions quickly.
Sans any props, the mostly all-boys cast (save for two actresses) banter and bicker over life and the responsibilities of being in one’s 30s as opposed to being a teenager, as these men were when they first signed on to serve the compulsory National Service.
A lot has changed between then and now – but at the crux of it, a lot of things have remained the same. Ho’s script shows that at the end of it all, grown men will still talk about sex and ladies as they did when they were horny teens. What has changed is that these men have slightly more responsibilities – their growing families, bank accounts, careers. The dialogue brings forth this contrasting dynamic very well.
However, the play has too many characters, which means that quite a few of the roles don’t seem as developed or as fleshed out as they should’ve been. Also, whilst the dialogue is very revealing and raw, it is also too draggy in places. It could’ve been edited to be tighter and therefore more effective. In addition, some scenes such as a dream sequence seem misplaced and unnecessary.
Having said that, this piece is artistically directed by Huzir Sulaiman who choreographs the military exercises with naturalistic movements and gestures in an almost dance-like scene. In other spots, he has the ensemble lining up along the sides of the stage and moving in accordance to what was going on in the main area. Also of interest is the fact that casting was done colour-blind so a couple of non-Chinese actors were employed to portray the Chinese roles.
This is certainly a very local play that would tug at the heartstrings of Singaporeans who have served the army, or who know of people who are continuing to do so, with its very honest story.
Please Note: If you missed Frago this time around, there will be a staged reading of excerpts on 12 August from 3-4pm at Library@Esplanade. A Q&A session will follow with the playwright Lucas Ho. Please check the Desert Wine Facebook page or Our SG Stories for more information.