Served up in 3 segments, Own Time Own Target attempts to follow up on Army Daze with an update of National Service jokes that will have many reminisce their own NS days.
The theatre piece kicked off with Full Tank, in which a tank and its crew break off from the unit and goes on a joyride into town. The outrageous process brought about the characterisation of stereotyped soldiers of our 4 main ethnicities: a jaded Eurasian career soldier, a boot-licking Indian, a Hokkien spewing Chinese and an uncommon Malay in the military service. Gags galore as the crew interacted with the public while they drove their tank through town, realising the cost of refueling a tank, that they have NSF discounts for visits to a nightclub and even having that mandatory encounter with a ladyboy. Meanwhile, the play also takes a dig at the top brass of the military whose expertise lie in delegation of responsibilities and “carrying balls”. Neither is a certain Minister in charge of Home Affairs let off in light of a recent escaped detainee, especially since it is almost a common practice in local theatre to poke fun politics wherever possible.
Next, Radio Silence attempts to challenge our military process of grooming leaders. Lieutenant Boon and Driver Charlie were on an exercise which they have little idea of their mission objectives when they got lost. The incompetence of the military leadership systematically surfaces through flashbacks of training sessions where stereotyped instructors provide much comic relief through liberal and ceaseless swearing or hilarious presentations of the topics covered. These snippets seem to suggest the failings in the process of passing on necessary knowledge. The exchanges between the officer and driver effectively brings to light what it takes to be a leader as well as how one needs to earn his subordinate’s respect, especially under our military’s ethos of training “Thinking Soldiers”.
Finally, Botak Boys brings the audience into Pulau Tekong for a musical of every boy’s first steps in his initiation into manhood as it charters the happenings from enlistment day to the end of the confinement period. Daily, expletives fill the air as the recruits go about their song and dance retelling their training experiences. Yet, one can’t help but to realise the actual focus in this segment is on the discovery of a homosexual among 5 bunkmates and the riproaring song and dance sequences surrounding the issue. It even puts the character in question as a protoganist, almost to convince the audience to accept such occurrences in our military establishment.
Unfortunately, all the scripts hinted heavily of Army Daze with plenty of borrowed jokes and little else to offer. Perhaps the root of the problem lies in the scriptwriters’ NS background (or probably the lack of) as some scenarios are beyond realistic. Portrayals of military personnel were also unfair as there is seemingly only humour derived from incompetence. Why can’t NS jokes come from the pretext of competency and excellence? Still, much credit goes to the cast for their confident, energetic and over-the-top performances that carried the stories through this 3-and-a-half hour triplebill.