A collage of memories Melania Hamilton with permission for Varsity

Dear Raffaella,

I hope this isn’t strange for you (or your wonderful team) to read. Why have I addressed this 'review' to you directly? See, I don’t really think I can be a 'reviewer' for your play, because it touched me in a way that I struggle to squash into a typical review. I figured it was better to acknowledge that, and write a letter, echoing how personal your play is to you.

“It touched me in a way that I struggle to squash into a typical review”

It felt personal to me, too. I think that’s what makes it special. I went to school on Vancouver Island for two years when I was 16. I still position that time in my life as a time that shaped my heart, and the people who populated that time as those who taught me how to love. When I graduated and returned to Singapore for my military service, I felt like my world had cracked in two. I was returning to my home, as laid out by citizenship, but felt like I was actually leaving a home I’d painstakingly built. My way of suturing the wound was to deconstruct the collage of photos, posters, post-it notes, and letters that adorned the wall of my Canadian bedroom, and blu-tac them onto my wall in Singapore. I thought it would serve as a reminder of everything I’d learnt and everyone I loved, even as they made their way through life on separate paths and continents to me.

You can imagine how struck I was, walking into the Fitzpatrick Hall last night, to see a familiar collage of memories adorning the back wall of the stage for your play It’s OK, I Still Think You’re Great. For 80 minutes, as I absorbed your character’s lives, the collage remained a focal point - visually and imaginatively. I found myself in a plane of existence I hadn’t thought of for a few years, finding me and my friends in the story of Tibby, Gin, and Anika. As they cycled through friendship’s familiar rhythms of catching up, quipping and bickering, flashes of conflict, and loving resolutions, I smiled nostalgically, and winced at the realization that people who’d once seemed so central to my existence were now being fondly recalled, further than an arm’s length away.

“As they cycled through friendship’s familiar rhythms [...] I smiled nostalgically”

That is not to say that I was immersed in the world of your play throughout. Moments of plot were introduced and at times quickly forgotten - why was it suggested Anika was in love with Tibby? What is it about Tibby’s relationship with food that means crisps are banned in her house? I felt the balance between the three characters was uneven. I didn’t particularly mind, because when we shifted to other characters, we heard rich accounts of topics I rarely encounter outside my own mind: the inevitable futility in a one-sided attempt at resuscitating fading friendship, the unending patience required to be a foreigner acclimatizing to a frigid British emotional climate. But, I was confused by the perspective of the play - light and sound would flash red and signal Tibby’s anxiety and fear, but I didn’t feel that the character as written could support that dramatic weight. Sometimes I could see the craft of the playwright more than I could hear a character speaking: transitions between conversation topics could feel too convenient. Still, these lapses allowed me to reflect more on my own connection to the play, which is a win in and of itself.

Another win was the team you’ve assembled to tell this story. Your director, Mel, makes great use of space. It’s a smart decision to set the play in the Fitzpat’s blackbox configuration: there’s an immediate intimacy established (and the lack of elevation for the three rows of seats made me fondly remember fringe theatres). The staging is well done - characters move around with intention, and there is a compelling tension between familiarity and coldness in the way the three of them interact with each other and the space they share. The performances coaxed out of the actors are stunning - they bring your keenly-observed naturalism to life. Olivia Khattar is luminous as the tornado that is Gin. She propels the play forward, casting light onto some and leaving others in her shadow, whether dishing out witty retorts (you write an excellent one-liner) or gently comforting her friends. Flossie Adrian, as Tibby, is the perfect foil, always readjusting so as to do her best for her friends, but also managing to make her worries never feel stale. Dominka Wiatrowska gives a hilarious and lived-in performance as Anika. Though her character’s arc is currently the most undefined, her vocal dexterity gives the play many of its funniest moments, and its most poignant too - Anika’s musing on how one’s 20s are filled with unintentionally hurting others is one of the evening’s highlights.

“There is a compelling tension between familiarity and coldness”

It’s a smart choice to have each of the characters intertwine at different moments in their 20s: potential for monotony is avoided. Across the characters there is a kind of linear progression - with age, comes maturity and security - but also a continuum, of pain, of longing, of rejection. Painful things to come to terms with, but something that cannot easily be avoided. As the play drew to a close, I reflected on my friendships in Cambridge - and unearthed a new worry: what if proximity is what is supporting them? What happens, then, when we graduate, and if I have to move back to Singapore? It’s OK, I Still Think You’re Great doesn’t give a clear answer - but that’s because the pressing questions it stirs up don’t have one.


Mountain View

A Bright Future for Freshers Beyond Today

I looked at the collage on the wall again, and remembered how I took my own collage down for good when I left Singapore for Cambridge, pledging to start afresh. Memories haunt us, and remembering what is in plain sight can be difficult. We might look to the past, and make the effort to rekindle friendships, and (not ‘or’) we can choose to move forward, find new places to inhabit, make new memories to put on our walls. If and when past and present come together, it may be fraught. But the journey through is surely worth it.

Thank you Raffaella, and your fantastic team, for such a reflective experience at the theatre. You should all feel so proud of what you’ve created and are sharing with, and provoking in, your audiences.



The format of this piece is inspired by Corrie Tan’s response to Blunt Knife.

It's OK, I Still Think You're Great is showing at Fitzpatrick Hall from 16-18 November at 19:30.