Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (reviewed opening night 11 October).

Everything we’ve seen from Slanted Theatre so far is full of wonderful surprises. Boom by Singaporean playwright Jean Tay is a fortuitous play about the cut-throat world of real estate, and the value of property in an emotional and economic sense. On the one hand, there are precious memories that cannot easily be moved; there are gardens and walls “that smell of armpit sweat”, and the happy times and the bad times that linger in each room like a haunted spirit. There is also the economic reality that old buildings “past their use-by date” will be torn down to make way for more profitable “government projects” to “benefit the community”.

Jean Tay sets the play in her homeland of Singapore, a country (when I last visited in 2007) renowned for its scrupulous high standards of cleanliness and hygiene. Spitting or littering in the streets cops a hefty penalty.

Tay alludes to this obsession with modernism in her wonderfully engaging play that pokes fun at marketing jargon, which pressures the average consumer to buy into a richer, more flashier lifestyle, “where the grass is greener on the other side”. But one elderly woman is not so convinced, clinging onto memories of her precious fig tree planted by her husband many years ago before they had a terrible split. She is adamant she won’t leave her home, and nothing, not even the threat of bulldozers, will make her leave. Her son, now a real-estate agent, is exasperated by his mother’s (seemingly misplaced) feelings for a father who has long since left the family home, and cannot find a way to reason with her. He must either protect her at all costs, or fight against her.

Tay’s script embodies the supernatural, with a corpse also occupying valuable real estate space in the path of a new commercial government venture. One of the bureaucrats from the Ministry of Land is seemingly able to “talk to dead people”, and thus begins a painful negotiation to get the corpse to identify who he is so that he can be reclaimed and moved to a more permanent resting place.

With a sweeping, lyrical narrative and excellent ensemble under the direction of Tiffany Wong, Slanted Theatre have created an art form that moves beyond conventional comedy or drama. There is pain and poignancy in the art of “letting go”, of finding closure, and moving with the tide towards change. The characters find bittersweet resolutions in each of their confrontations, giving weight and dimension to a story full of laughter, but also deadly serious, and at times, very painful.

Tiang Lim who plays the elderly mother, and looking like a gorgeous “glam gran” after the show, spoke with tremendous love about her role, and the beauty of discovering layers to her story. Lim brings nuance and subtext as a woman who was once filled with joy, hope, and a freshly sweet invigorating innocence, who is now broken-hearted, but is still a fighter, a warrior, protecting her home against the greedy, blood-thirty creatures of capitalism and progress who howl at her door. With a walking cane in one hand and a dust-cloth in the other, she embodies all the mannerisms of her character with authenticity, dignity, vulnerability and strength. I particularly liked her green top imprinted with a leafy motif, signalling the environment seeping into her skin. A wise choice from costume designer Rita Naidu!

Josephine Lee, as her son, shifts effortlessly from past to present, as a young, hyperactive child protecting his mother like a super-hero to an older, cynical son now working in real estate. Their bond, and conflict, and disappointment with each other, is very real.

Gerwin Widjaja as the mis-identified corpse is a total scream. From the first moment when he crawls out of the coffin to the final moment when he accepts his fate, Widjaja had the audience laughing all the way through with his wonderful “sensitive comedy”. Even just sitting on the tombstone, saying nothing, trying to understand his companion in the world of the living, made the audience shriek with laughter. Very Chaplin-esque, poetic and endearing.

Daniel MacKenzie as Jeremiah, the hapless civil servant with special paranormal skills best not mentioned in a job interview, is also a fantastic clownish character, moving between the real and surreal with clumsiness and great comedic timing.

The remaining cast create a unity and harmony in this dynamic production, filling up the wonderful traverse stage set designed by Aloma Barnes. Special effects, such as the falling branch tree, are very cool. The soundtrack of commercial progress, and impending doom, composed by Sam Cheng, has just the right volume and beats to elevate tension and mood.

The language of this show contains a fluid mix of Singlish and Hokkien, but the messages and stories being imparted are universal, and speaks to a diverse audience. Boom is what your heart will be doing once you’ve seen this show.

Boom is playing at KXT Ultimo until 21 October 2023. For tickets and showtimes, go to You can also participate in Karaoke after the show on Fri 13 October with any valid theatre ticket.

Images: Sherry Zheng

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