no particular order review

Review: No Particular Order, Theatre503

Review: No Particular Order, Theatre503

It is by no means a perfect show but I refuse to believe that anyone could emerge from Theatre503 unaware what an outstanding talent Joel Tan is.


I grew up on European theatre – wild, experimental to the point of absurd, non-commercial (or hardly commercial), not always exactly intelligible and overall pleasantly obnoxious. No Particular Order obviously isn’t a “European” show (written by Singaporean Joel Tan) but it is redolent of it – and although not everything works as it could, it does a tremendous job showcasing the direction young British theatre could take if less time was spent on adhering to conventions and pandering to wider and wider and wider yet audiences, and more on the actual creative process.  

The subject of No Particular Order is the erosion of democracy, violation of civil autonomy, and resistance – as seen by many an eye. If anything, it is perhaps too ambitious – it covers over 300 years and a great many characters in a sequence of scenes that, with the production’s ultra low budget, oftentimes seem disjointed and even discordant. Perhaps if the characters were fewer and recurring, with stronger ties joining them all together and joining them to the audience’s sentiments and sympathies, the emotional impact the play aims to have could be even greater.  

Not that it is small as it is. Joel Tan’s on-stage world is dystopian, dark and cruel, and yet not so far off from our – present or historical – reality. Some scenes are tremendous stand-outs: when Pía Laborde-Noguez as a prison warden persuades Daniel York Loh’s prisoner to take the first pill, as “the lethal dose will be two hours after”; when Pandora Colin’s couturiere refuses to print flowers on her designs because her mother was shot dead in the garden; Colin again explaining to Jules Chan’s teacher that “unpatriotic” poetry should not be taught at school; and York Loh again reminiscing of his father at the supermarket.  

The entire cast (of four actors of mixed gender and age, as required by the playwright) is brilliant – their efforts even more commendable that they don’t have much set to work with – but Daniel York Loh’s star shines particularly bright. He’s a prisoner and a rebel, a drunkard and a bird exterminator, in an impressive kaleidoscope of faces, voices and emotions he shifts between characters with vulnerability and intelligence.  

It is by no means a perfect show but I refuse to believe that anyone could emerge from Theatre503 unaware what an outstanding talent Joel Tan is. His play taps into the greatest potential the theatre has: creativity, experiment and innovation. It shows how boundaries can be and are being crossed and even trampled over. It is not afraid to not pander to Aunt Ednas of our times. And, above all else, it is genuine.  

Theatre503, until 18 June

Image: Standing – Jules Chan, foreground – Daniel York Loh, credit – Lidia Crisafulli.