Hello Goodbye opens with Juliet stumbling upon Alex in her new apartment, with the latter also moving in. He collects McDonald's toys and says words like "ergo", while she works her way around a kingdom of suitors in short skirts and heels. Written by Peter Souter, who has scripted BBC Radio Four plays, this Singapore Repertory Theatre production stars Shane Mardjuki (Lord of the Flies, Twelfth Night) and Denise Tan (Dim Sum Dollies, Fried Rice Paradise) as Alex and Juliet respectively.
Mardjuki and Tan are both equally captivating as you're drawn into their mating dance. Egg sandwiches are cooked on stage and factoids about stegosauruses are shared, along with witty one-liners involving Yoda's testicles — you know, the markings of a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy. Predictably, the pair end up together — but what happens after happily ever after?
It's a question the audience is met with after the interval, which resumes with the pair 10 years into their relationship. It opens on a searingly tense note — the mating dance is no more. Instead, Mardjuki and Tan tango through a cold dancefloor of sorts, a far cry from their initial meeting, which burned with the flame of an anticipated romance. There is a lump inside your throat — it's as though you've just watched two of your best friends break up, turning into passive statues. The entire time during the second play, you're — as Jane Austen wrote in Persuasion — in "half agony, half hope."
But it's through these stoic fronts that emotiveness seep through the cracks, expertly handled by Mardjuki and Tan. What was sheer joy in watching Mardjuki and Tan in the first half turns into an even deeper appreciation of how flawed and real the characters are, and how faithful their delivery was.
Yes, it bears the clichés of a romantic comedy: A mismatched couple, an unexpected meeting and a long, drawn out argument riddled with sexual tension and witty banter. But if clichés are born out of honest-to-goodness, tried-and-tested romances, then Hello Goodbye pretty much nails it.
Hello Goodbye runs from now till 26 September at DBS Arts Centre - Home of SRT. Tickets here.