56 | Learning to Love Darkness.

Cr: sistic

Whatever it was, nothing prepared me for Shun-Kin.

I have never felt this way for a show before. As everyone around me rose in a standing ovation, I didn’t even have the energy to stand. I was just in my seat, reeling from the whole production, trying to regain my footing in the real world.

Shun-kin does not attempt to prey on western fascination with orient culture too much. It is what it is – a glimpse into another culture, where sadomasochistic love between a wealthy, beautiful shamisen player and a lowly servant is acceptable, whereas in western culture it would be considered perverse by any measure. The show charms with the use of three narratives that intersperse and overlap each other seamlessly, and tell the story enchantingly. There is a fine balance of acting and narration – such that I only noticed the narration in retrospect. Simon McBurney, in his talk on Wednesday, also mentioned that the cast is the same one that was there from the very beginning, and I think that contributes to the flawless orchestration of this piece. It is a tale of the human condition, a relation of love in a different form, a mock documentation of beauty in a dark, dark place. There was no playing on our pathos or ethos. The story was just presented as it is, with no frills, and you take away what you want to take away. The piece is fraught with many emotions that come across as an undertone, yet the performance evokes the emotions in you rather in shoving it in your face.

I have never liked being in dark places since I was young, so it came as a surprise to me that I would like the darkness of this play so much. It was easy on the eyes (I didn’t feel the burning sensation that I often have with brightly lit stage productions) yet the darkness seemed to hide so much in its depths. Indeed, there is beauty to be found in darkness. With the added dimension of the stage that was in darkness, the play seemed to take on a more mysterious, shadowy quality. I think this somehow helped me to embrace the ambiguity of certain parts of the play, rather than have my inquisitive mind hurt the author’s intention of leaving portions of the tale to the imagination.

Adding to my surprise at my liking for the darkness of the stage, I was also surprised that I enjoyed the narration. I usually hate plays with narrators, or what I call “one foot in the story and one foot out”. I prefer to be submerged in the story, but this time, the narration was so well-blended that I could hardly discern where it began and where it changed narrative voices. One other writer’s touch to the piece I enjoyed was when the show was cordoned in half – there was time for a “water break” so that my mind was able to clear itself and prepare for the next segment. These considerations were even more impressive when there was another buffer at the beginning of the second segment so I had time to get myself back in the story. Such consideration to details, when observed, could give a piece proper framing and tie things together really well.

What really impressed me tonight, though, was the cast. Especially the portrayal of young Shun-Kin. The voice was charming, charismatic, and sounded completely true to life even though young Shun-Kin was portrayed by a doll. The lilting, crisp and coquettish qualities of the voice really drew me in. The puppetry also must be commended because if I’m not mistaken, each movement of Shun-Kin’s arm, legs, and body had to be coordinated by two or more people. Honestly, I can only imagine the amount of rehearsals they had.

Shun-kin is a enchanting in a very mystical way. This stage production used such minimal prop/s: sticks, mats, screens, minimal lights (nothing fanciful) to bring out a show so packed with subtleties. Rather than depending on glamorous sets, this piece hung on the well-orchestrated cast to move each prop at the correct time to the correct place.

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I initially told many of my friends that I was unable to speak about Shun-Kin simply because there is nothing left to say. I am still very much immersed and captivated by the story at the time of writing and doubt that I will ever be able to give an objective view of this. It is not often that I come out of a play so emotionally drained. Shun-Kin has touched something visceral in me, its intensity of emotion unmatched by other plays that can sometimes be afraid to confront. This production has no qualms presenting the story wholly to you – and hats off to Complicite for that.

One day, I hope to be able to make theatre like that. I realize that recently my works have all taken on hypocrisies – too many extravagant, chimerical devices that seek not to present my story, but to impress. Is that what I really want? All I can say is a resounding no. I think theatre to me is purest when it’s used as a means of conveying a message, to influence and touch people, to present an alternate perspective, a deviant approach. Not to thrill or titillate. I hope to one day achieve such a realm of rich imagery and plain, impactful theatre. For now, Shun-Kin, and Complicite’s images, are branded on my mind.

I’ll leave you with the image that most disturbed me tonight:

Cr: x

RECAP: Chinese Idol

100 DAYS.

Yes, that’s 100 days of loving and chasing Chinese Idol (right through my exam period but coincidentally they had no episode that week and I was so butthurt about it booooo). It all started when I watched a clip of 部落组合 Ethnic Minorities Group performing their rendition of 想你的365天 365 Days of Missing You by 李玟 Coco Lee. Prior to that I’d been watching only because the judge 黄晓明 Huang Xiaoming is one very fine man. I’d enjoyed the auditions and such but then this group performed and my love for all things cultural/ethnic kicked in. I was hooked. I won’t talk about who won, but I’ll talk about the ones I supported.

艾菲 – Love On Top (Beyonce)

Man, this girl can sing.

She’s pretty, she can belt, and she can dance. She’s really got the charisma and star-factor, if you look up her performances, I think she’s the most well-rounded of the lot. She’s also really feisty and known as 拼命三娘 or someone who uses her life to do what she’s doing. You can see her energy and her determination for what she does in her interviews and in her performances. Hats off to her – she has really got my respect.

候磊 – 悬崖 Cliff (齐秦)

It was this very piece that had me at first note.

His rendition of the song was smooth, detailed and chockful of emotions. I remember being transfixed by this performance and only realizing I teared up at the end. Over the course of the competition 候磊 has shown that he can do songs across a variety of styles (Yellow) and people have described his voice as 沧桑 which I don’t know how to translate, just that it’s something like.. vast. Expansive. His voice seems to sing the span of an ocean.

There were other really epic performances in this season, including this version of Eason Chen 陈奕迅‘s 等你爱我 Waiting for You to Love Me by 郭帅 Guo Shuai and  邓小坤 Deng Xiao Kun:

Yes. You guessed it. I cried.

This wasn’t the only time I cried though. There were many times when I cried like crazy, including this and this [CAN YOU SEE EVERYONE CHOKING UP] time when Michelle 陆敏雪 was surrounded by controversy regarding her financial status and she cried onstage just as she was kicked. Sigh. Tears over tears.

Of course, I must also give special mention to this contestant called 央吉玛 Yanggiema, and she’s hailed the Goddess of the show. Not without good reason though:

央吉玛 Yanggiema – 莲花开 Lotus Bloom

Did you see her hit those high notes without so much as flinching? Just her presence alone is very calming – she’s dignified, composed and very elegant! She always gets those gowns to wear (I bet the other contestants are jealous) and boy does she pull them off well. She is someone that I can’t help but watch and I really love her voice as well.

And lastly, my favourite:

阿来 Aray – 兄弟 Dos [Kazakh] / Brothers (原创 Original)

Doesn’t his voice just sound so mesmerizing? If someone asked me to describe his voice, I’d say it was mellow. Full. Very warm. It’s like being in a warm embrace, I just want to be surrounded by his voice forever. His speaking voice is so different, it’s almost like he’s possessed by a whole new spirit when he sings. He’s actually really soft-spoken, introverted and gentle. Nothing like his voice that’s rather straightforward here. Every time he sings a song I really get moved by his voice alone. He’s someone I really favour and I will definitely support him all the way!

By the way, the bits that aren’t in Chinese are in Kazakh. If you didn’t know, China has 56 ethnic minorities that speak different languages and have different cultures although they are integrated as part of China! This is what the show introduced to me (and got me all obsessed about). Since being hooked on this show I’ve been so intrigued by the ethnic minorities of China that I’ve done extensive reading – I’ve read on the Menba, the Hui people, the Tibetans, the Mongols and the Kazakhs. It’s just really interesting to me, I love delving into different cultures so this should come as no surprise. The biggest surprise came when one day I was watching The Voice of China – a different show – and I discovered this portion:

Yes, she is wearing a gorgeous hanbok, and yes, she’s singing in Chinese, English & Korean. Yes, it’s KOREAN. After I got over the shock of hearing Korean, I remembered that in my experience, I rarely encounter a Korean who can speak perfect Chinese & Korean. If you are a native speaker of either language it’s hard to learn the other, because Korean is a language with no tones and Chinese has 4 tones which non-native speakers’ ears are not conditioned to pick up quickly. This ethnic minorities is called 朝鲜族 or Chosen.

Back to Chinese Idol.

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In this 100 days, there’ve been lots of fun and laughter.

Also, buckets over buckets of tears.

But I have learnt a lot.

I have learnt that doing what you love is not a matter of how many awards you win or how many accolades you have, it’s what comes from the heart. Let the heart speak for yourself and people will hear it. How determined are you to get there? How insistent are you that you have something of value? Then again, how do you maintain a balance of your passion and your work? I have learnt, more than ever, to appreciate the ethnic minorities. The differences in culture. How each culture is beautiful in itself. The genius of humans creating a whole new language, devising a whole new way of living. Chinese Idol has taught me to accept and love passion & culture in all its forms.

It has been an unforgettable summer. Thank you, Chinese Idol.

[EDIT] This is the most heartbreaking elimination ever. I cried like crazy at this one:

55 | Seven Weeks.

YEEEEEEEHA!

I am f r e e.

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PS: All the photos on this blog are not the same as the ones on my Instagram or my Facebook. The assumption here is that you are connected to me on all three platforms (including my twitter) so have a look around. It’s not called stalking if it’s information made public.

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We concluded our third and final paper today – it was accounts on Monday, econs on Wed and statistics today. The rest – management, business communications, and general education were all presentation modules. Yes, that’s all the modules I do well in, the rest are kind of a get-lucky thing.

I think the most classic moment was when we finished Business Comms presentation last Wednesday. My lecturer said our group had the most orchestrated presentation, and in his words it was “almost theatrical”. Now being the goody-two-shoes I am I was busy editing photos on my phone and wasn’t listening until I heard my classmates say, “… Chelsea!” I looked up in shock as they all tried to tell me what had just gone on and apparently I was told I had the “Who, me?” look on my face! Epic, epic.

Now I really hate being restricted, and I don’t know how I survived my GCSE O’s because I was practically jailed during that time (of my own free will, har har) and this time, I felt cooped up and suffocated as usual. Honestly, it wasn’t because I worked extraordinarily hard or anything. I started revising the weekend of the exams, or in the case of stats, the night before. Now y’all don’t wanna be procrastinators like me especially if you’re in JC but I think this has taught me that if I wanna enjoy I’ve got to put in the work on a weekly basis instead of rushing tutorials as I’ve been doing for the last semester. Or not really rushing, just.. copying answers. Does not work okay.

BUT that chapter has been closed and this marks the beginning of a seven-week holiday in which I have absolutely no homework to do. Oh joy!

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Began the the first of my (hopefully) numerous shopping trips & outings with 7 girls – Claudia (that’s her above!), Janice, Syahirah, Carol, Iffah, Cynthia, Taopang! Headed to JEM after the paper and had Pastamania before shopping. I’m glad Stradivarius opened in JEM, I really like their stuff. It’s getting harder and harder to find clothes that I like and perhaps I have too many clothes (and just as much makeup) so I guess I shall have to clear up or move out soon!

Right, that leads me to my topic for today, my bucket list for the holidays. I feel the need to make a list before it whizzes by me without me noticing again.

  1. Top priority of course goes to my writing. I need to get all my poems & plays out asap because I am terribly behind schedule!
  2. Clear out my wardrobe and makeup stash which is, really, quite overloaded. 😦
  3. Shop, drink coffee and enjoy life.
  4. Study whatever the hell I want. Which includes unrelated things like political science, psychology, ethnic minorities, etc. Whatever obsesses me at that point of time, really.
  5. Get my languages sorted!! (more on this later)
  6. Meet up with all my friends whom I haven’t had a chance to see in a while (Noel Ku I’m looking directly at you)
  7. Chase all the dramas & variety shows/singing competitions I want to. (more on this too)

I think 7 is a pretty good number to begin with. 🙂

Recently I’ve realized how badly my language has deteriorated. It’s not just my Chinese, it’s my English too. My Chinese I can understand, I’ve not been using it much and with no one to correct me it’s just harder to form my sentences the right way. English comes as a surprise but it’s true, when I’m so focused on schoolwork, I rarely have the time to phrase my sentences eloquently the way I did in high school. I am very unwilling to let any one of my languages slip away because if not for languages I have no other saving virtue. Especially my English, I mean, what will I do with my writing? The thought of leaving any language behind terrifies me. Also, I need to sort out my Cantonese (get the pronounciation right) and Korean as well. If anyone knows of good sites to pick up Cantonese, do let me know! My Korean is improving every week and I’m a little comforted by that, haha. I also want to get on with memorizing the Tibetan alphabet and consider learning a fifth language – any recommendations?

Part of the reason why I’ve been so obsessed with Tibet recently is because of Chinese Idol. The ethnic minorities of China first captured my attention when there was an episode where they grouped together and sung. I had that on loop for weeks, I kid you not. I’ve always been into unique music, and tribal/ethnic-flavoured music suits me just fine. All of you, go catch Chinese Idol! It’s coming to the finals soon and I can’t wait to know who’ll win! I’m rooting for 阿来 (Aray) and 央吉玛 (Yanggiema) but that’s just me. 🙂 Let me know who you support!

Other than chasing Chinese Idol, I’ve also been really taken with a few dramas lately. I’ve been relooking Moon That Embraces The Sun (because who can get over Kim Soo Hyun’s character – no, not a fan of him – and Han Ga In herself?) as well as L’Escargot. New dramas include My Bittersweet Life even though I’ve been furious at the last few episodes where all the characters are one-dimensional. You see, the mother is perpetually weeping. Bitchy daughter goes around being a bitch, never smiles. Dad is busy pacifying everyone. Then there is this bimbo (or hiao) character who goes around spreading the news and being a complete whiny princessy thing. I can’t stand her, every time a scene comes up with her I just kinda wanna bury my head in my hands and tide it over. Just gross. 

Before I end off, I’m going to announce a manhunt. Or lipstick hunt. Yes, if any of you girlfriends come across a Revlon shelf anywhere on this island, please have a look at the Revlon Lip Butter section for a lipstick called Juicy Papaya. Here’s my story:

One morning, I went to Watsons, saw this lipstick (a shelf full) and I thought it was a really pretty colour. Came home to google for swatches, decided it was so pretty that I had to have it that very day. I went back in the evening. Aaaaaand, TADAH. The entire shelf is gone.

Since then I’ve not seen a single tube anywhere. The closest I’ve come to it is testers in John Little/Robinsons and I really want this lipstick. I don’t buy that it’s out of stock, it just vanished off the shelves. If any of you see it, please just buy it for me and drop me a text! 🙂

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Ending off with a picture of my gem, Janice and I. If you’re wondering what she’s doing, she’s hiding her waterbottle behind her back.

Till the next time,

jem2

54 | Back for Seconds

Cr: sightlines productions

DISCLAIMER: This will not be a review as much as it is a rave.

Did you know?

You are the one person I have ever truly loved. All my life.

The one constant that I never figured out.

The one thing I have never regretted.

Without conditions, without reason.

And yet. The single truth in my life.

Against which everything else becomes relative.

Everything But The Brain is a legendary text of sorts between myself and a few close friends.

I first encountered this play as the first Singaporean play I had ever read in my life. I was one of those students who hated Singaporean literature, even scorning it to be a “mock-up” of American and British canonical works. The joke’s on me now, because I have seen and loved more Singaporean pieces than foreign ones. Nevertheless, this playtext managed to cut through my most evident disdain for all things mathematical and for Singaporean literature with its core message of love and the inevitability of life, loss and death. A month after I finished EBTB, while I was still raving about it,  it was announced that EBTB would be restaged in August 2013. I could hardly wait! In fact, when I saw various responses to EBTB get staged, I was even more expectant. And yes, this particular staging by Sightlines Productions was not one to disappoint.

When I first read this play, I was very taken by a few concepts. On the conceptual aspect, I liked how the play handled big, abstract concepts such as time, death, loss, filial piety and yet came out not just coherent, but relatable. I was so new to theatre at that time and I remember being so fascinated by it that I couldn’t stop talking about it. I scrutinized the play cover to cover. Slowly, I became more and more aware of the technical genius of the play as well. The notion of time resonates in the play so that you actually feel time creeping up on you, but because of its wording you never truly have it smashed it in your face all the time. I also loved the Three Bear chorus, perhaps because it was reminiscent of my favourite play of all time, Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan. I was (and still am) much taken with the role of narrators in theatre. When I was reading it, I couldn’t grasp any of its physics concepts, but somehow at the end of the play it didn’t matter, because that was not the core message. It seemed to me to be a bridge, a rope to tie everything together, and it did so very well. I had hoped the staging would give me a more concrete image of the entire play – after all, plays are primarily written to be performed, not read, right?

So, let’s start with my favourite. All we saw on stage when we first sat down were 2 chairs and a black backdrop. I even asked Yogi, “Looks a little empty, doesn’t it?” This set consisted of a black fringe “curtain” and two very well-designed chairs that multi-tasked as suitcases. Throughout the play, these were used to the fullest extent, portraying chairs, hospital beds, suitcases, etc. I like it when sets are kept minimalist and multi-tasking because every scene change costs you precious seconds and distracts the audience – I felt that this set was particularly well designed. The curtains served as a peeking hole for the three bears at times, and at others, showed a time warp. Overall, the feel of the set as one that moved and was never solidly in place gave the whole concept of impermanence a concrete manifestation and I liked it very, very much.

Next, the projections. Again, I am a sucker for beautiful projections. The use of projections in plays can really help the visuals gain a foothold on the mind and this time, the images of neurons was truly apt. I probably only wished that they had projected some memorable quotes from the book as well, but that’s probably just me and my obsession with typography. I have nothing much to say about the lighting and the sound (except that they are very thoughtfully and skilfully designed) because I am not well-versed with that technical aspect of theatre but the sound of clocks going tick-tock at the end was very disconcerting indeed, and reinforced the idea of time being unstoppable and relentless.

Similarly, once I grasp that absolute truth in my life, everything else will make sense.

You are the one true thing in my life. 

The one thing that never made sense.

This particular staging had a very wonderful cast. Let’s start with Father. Father was played by Gerald Chew, the same actor who won a ST Life! Best Actor award for the 2006 staging of EBTB. In this staging of EBTB, I can see why he won the award. Between dry wit, stubbornness, and vulnerability, Gerald Chew gave life to the character of Father, from an independent man madly in love with Physics, who struggles to care for his 6 year-old daughter post-divorce, to the man who struggles with the emotional and physical burdens of stroke.

Koh Wan Ching also put up a very convincing performance as Elaine. Elaine for me is a multi-dimensional character, and mostly a conflicted one – I see her as someone who loves her father but does not verbalize it, someone who yearns for a prince charming of her own but is torn by duty to her father. One cannot help but feel for Wan Ching’s portrayal of Elaine, even during the times that she threw tantrums as a child, and most of all, when she was at the brink of giving up but continued caring for her father. I like to see her as someone with a soft core but steely exterior and the most poignant moments of the play came from her.

In this staging, I feel that the love line between Dr. Sam & Elaine were a little downplayed, or it might be my unreliable teenage mind giving it extra focus when I was reading the play. Nevertheless, the role called for a handsome, dashing young doctor, and Edward Choy certainly made the cut! He injected lightheartedness into the play with the casual air that a seasoned actor often has and I found myself liking this character above all by the end of the night.

Now, for the chorus members. When I first saw the chorus members in the poster, I was a little skeptical. I truly didn’t know what I was in for. Never had I expected that the three bears were a family, or perhaps I’d missed that nuance in the playtext. All three of them were spectacular as they switched roles here and there, pushing the play forward. If I hadn’t been convinced of Amanda Tee and Cassandra Spykerman’s skill back when I watched Sisters, I now have all the proof I need! Both girls never leave me in doubt of what magic they conjure on stage – I am a big fan! As for Faizal, it was my first time seeing him perform, but he was a riot with his acting and not least, his accents, and I really bought into his role as Papa Bear.

Overall, I think what really made the play come alive for me tonight was the genius playwriting by Jean, the skilful directing by Derrick Chew and.. oh, who am I kidding? Each and every one of the cast and crew made this a memorable experience for me. After all, isn’t that what I love most about theatre? The way each part works like clockwork gears to present a piece of writing that has the potential to impact people? Today I left the theatre feeling dazed, as I always feel after a good play. This might just be the best piece of theatre in 2013, who knows? A piece has finally kicked Sisters out of its place as reigning champion!

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Oh, you asked why Everything But the Brain is a legendary play of sorts? Well, let’s just say that it always leaves me in tears, with a sort of thoughtful, deep-seated sadness. If I have the opportunity to, I will definitely be back for seconds.. (ha, ha, if you get the pun).

This production runs from 10-21 Aug 2013, tickets on sale at SISTIC (here!). Quickly grab your tickets and let me know what you think of it!

53 | Weird Things I’ve Spoken About

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Here’s some good press for my girlfriend Jan Jan! 

With 2/3 of presentations over, I can finally heave a huge sigh of relief and plod plod plod on with revision, my playwriting and the last presentation. I am finally beyond giving a shit helping people who not only don’t appreciate me, but even take my efforts for granted and go backwards on them. Like, are you for real? My work is never substandard. If you’re going to do this whole “I’m better than you” thing, then rest assured I am not going to give you the extra mile any more. 🙂

Digressing from such antics, I realized that my conversations have become weirder and weirder recently. With Janice that day, we were discussing do and do nots during the seventh month. As you all know I am a scaredy-cat and I am morbidly afraid of the dark as well. Clearly we both freaked each other out (I was more freaked out than she was) and now I am bordering on mild paranoia, pinning up my fringe and all that. Grrr.

kboxtina

Finally! W/ homegirl Tina at Kbox & Ci Gusta today.

Today Tina & I were discussing phones. Sounds normal, until I realized we were waxing nostalgia over old phones we used to love. I used to own the Nokia 5310, which I conveniently donated to a taxi driver in Beijing in 2008. Later, I changed to a Sony Ericsson W995, which.. let’s not even talk about what happened to it. It dropped in.. water. And it died. Or rather I was too grossed out to ever use it again. Then I began hopping around phones like the Huawei I had which drove me up the wall before going to Nokia Lumia 800, which I do still love to bits. I have an iPhone 5 now but I had such a hard time leaving my Lumia. I know it’s ridiculous that I am being all melo over a piece of metal but hey, some phones are really worth it!

I have never been one to use phones for lots of apps. My main purpose would only be to text, call, and now Whatsapp and snap selcas as well. I really like capturing moments here and there, which is part of the reason why I left my Lumia (no front camera, terrible back camera) and came over to iPhone instead. For some reason, the iPhone’s picture capturing is so fantastic that I’ve been happily snapping away for the short week that I’ve had the phone. It’s really wonderful, I mean, look at the colours above. Granted, it’s been edited with one filter each but just look at the richness of colour, lighting and detail. You do not get such things with a Lumia, even though it’s also 8MP. I have no idea why, but the iPhone trumps all in terms of camera and phototaking capabilities!

Another thing I look out for in phones is texting interface. In both the W995 and Lumia, I loved the fonts they used to text, as well as the smileys. When texting is a nice experience, you can’t help but use your phone compulsively and you actually enjoy it. For the money I pay, I daresay I am justified in demanding more than just being able to send out messages and call, right? On the Lumia especially, the keyboard is amazing. It has such small alphabets but somehow my fingers fit comfortably over the phone. I think maybe, just maybe, this phone was made for me. Who knows, right?

Both my W995 and Lumia were very durable. They’ve both been through rather crazy experiences, with the W995 dropping into.. water, and still coming out functioning fine after drying. The Lumia has been thrown across classrooms, dropped from second floor, dropped into water and semi-boiled, etc. It’s STILL functioning fine. The Gorilla Glass screen is amazing, scratch-proof and has given me peace of mind like no other phone has. It has a solid feeling to it as well – people say the Lumia is heavy, but once you get used to it, the weight is actually reassuring. The only defect I had on the phone at the end of 2 years other than the software not being updated was the charging cover being unable to close as a result of a dent. One dent. After so many incidences in two years. Now that is the true Nokia spirit. In contrast, I feel my heart crack a little every time I drop my iPhone. I kind of scoff on the inside every time I drop my iPhone because after using a Nokia for so long you kind of think your phone is indestructible in comparison to the rest of the phones on the market. So I’d be going all, “Hah, so much for all the hype around you, you still lose to my lovely Nokia” until I realize it’s roughly SGD 800 worth of metal I’m dropping on the floor.

In closure I’d just like to ask if anyone is interested in manufacturing a phone with Nokia’s Window interface and exterior with Apple’s app market and camera functions? Because I’m sure it’d be a hit the whole world round. 😉 This is how I shall make my millions.

52 | Gratitude.

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At MBS for Phantom of the Opera w/ Jean.

Right, so I’ve been dormant for way too long. But perhaps dormant is the wrong word to use. It’s more of.. swamped. Buried six feet under a pile of appointments and work. Let’s see what I had in the past month.

  1. Charis, gugu & guzhang came back from Beijing for a few days – met up with them and took them around as usual!
  2. Caught a bunch of plays x
  3. Had three (THREE!) ongoing projects concurrently. How am I even alive?
  4. Missed 2 coffee Fridays at Flock 😦
  5. Finally met up with my playwrights at a physical theatre workshop over the weekend!
  6. Grew addicted to Chinese Idol.
  7. Changed Korean class – I’m now with the Sunday class and it’s such a joy to go to class now 🙂
  8. Began an obsession with everything ethnic in China – including Tibet – and am reminded how I am a sucker for languages.
  9. Realized how liberating TEDtalks are for me and added them to my list of holiday documentaries to enjoy!
  10. Asides from academics, got shortlisted for a scholarship and joined DHRMP chapter as well!

So, let’s talk about my obsession with languages, because recently that has been my preoccupation. Why am I so taken with languages, especially exotic ones? What is it about those languages that I like? Why do I get so invariably upset when a language is undermined? I found some answers in this quote:

A language is not just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules. A language is a flash of the human spirit. It’s a vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind, a watershed, a thought, an ecosystem of spiritual possibilities.
– Wade Davis (TEDtalks) Dreams from Endangered Cultures

I agree with this wholesale. A language is much, much more than merely a means of communication. A language is the manifestation of culture, the embodiment of a people’s spirit. When you destroy a language, you are destroying a society. Language is ubiquitous in any and every society, so what right do we have to trample on other peoples’ languages just because they are a minority?

I also realize that perhaps one of the reasons I like languages is because they give me a glimpse of a people completely different from who I am. For example, the tribes and ethnic minorities. I’ve always been very taken with them, and although I haven’t figured out why exactly, I daresay it’s not too far from the point that they lead such different lives. When we learn to appreciate differences between two entities, a whole new world unfolds between that for you to explore.

Enough raving about languages. One other thing that I have to discuss: my takeaways from each play I’ve caught over the past month or so.

Optic Trilogy by Alfian Sa’at: I know that this is all planned for and methodically calculated, but really, I can relate to the feeling of it being more than a coincidence when certain things happen. People always say I like to pretend I know lots of people but I feel this heady sense of joy when I make connections between people in my life. It’s like everything just clicks into place for me. All the more reason to believe that our meetings aren’t by coincidence. I mean, out of the billions of people spread out over the continents, across all the possibilities of missing each other in the crowd, falling out, character differences – we still managed to meet the ones we love and leave footprints in their life as we trudge on together.. isn’t that already close to magical?

Dreamplay: Asian Boys Vol. 1 by Alfian Sa’at: This is one play I hadn’t planned on watching, but after watching Optic Trilogy, compounded by the number of good reviews, I couldn’t not catch it. In fact, I bought matinee tickets (I usually hate matinee shows) and I didn’t regret it at all. I really think Alfian Sa’at is a master craftsman at linking it all back together. He never really loses sight of his central theme and ties everything back tightly, yet manages to make it witty and enlightening at the same time. How even? I guess most times playwriting is practice, but sometimes it’s a gift one has.

Machine by Tan Tarn How (Orangedot Productions): I took front row seats and never did I regret it. Having Julian Low walk in and take his bows in front of me was all worth it but I digress. This was certainly a very sexy production and Tan Tarn How’s original script was already very riveting on its own. I will always admire naturalist playwrights because the amount of backstory and planning involved in these plays is tedious and arduous to say the least, and suffice it to say that planning in detail in not my forte. I didn’t really like this production though, due to the staging of it. For the first 20 minutes or so, the actors were speaking so softly that I couldn’t hear (I was in the first row) and they lost me for a bit there. Nevertheless, it’s always good to see old works revived with a spunky new outlook!

In the Curve of the Wanton Sea (Seven-Headed Dragon): I didn’t know what to make of this one. Not because I don’t like it, but because I had to really sit on it and think about what those themes meant to me before I was able to really appreciate the show. Come to think of it, I really enjoyed it. The mix of mediums, even using movement in the show, was something I really liked. Also, I liked the multilingualism (I am such a sucker for multilingual plays) and because I really enjoy experimental works, this production had lots to love. On a sidenote, the staging was amazing. The set was beautiful and the projections left me dumbfounded. Sometimes I think the use of multimedia in a play can be a cop-out, but this one actually added to the aesthetic value of the entire play. Certainly going to catch Part 2!
PS: Because Najib Soiman lectures at SP, every time I watch his performances, I get very very tempted to change course. /sigh Pity I don’t – or really, can’t – act to save my life!

The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber (directed by Harold Prince): Story aside, I love the stagecraft! Set designer totally deserves pay raise tenfold. I really like Claire Lyon’s portrayal of Christine was amazing and Brad Little as Phantom was a double-edged sword – I felt that he didn’t have the power or thickness in his voice, but later he really brought out Phantom’s psychosis really well. It was unsettling even in my seat! Main thoughts after show would be that I am intrigued by the idea of ugliness. What makes the Phantom of the Opera so ugly, his deformity or his mental instability? Why is Christine able to show compassion to her captor again and again? Why does she turn back to give the Phantom his ring, although she could have hightailed it with Raoul? In my mind, I kind of compare Raoul with Fiyero of Wicked, and the difference between them from what I see is that Fiyero is more willing to pull all the stops for Elphaba but with Raoul.. I don’t know, I don’t really like him. Let me think more on this. Hmm..

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Next, a thank you note to my MOB group:

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who takes the credit.”

Word.

In our group, it’s never mattered who takes credit for what. Successes are taken as a group and so are failures. I am so privileged to have been grouped with you all and I just want to thank you all for making at least one of my modules something I love.

From Carol’s teasings to Kaiyang’s jokes to Sua I mean, Syah’s joking around to Janice, oh, my cute cute Janice – how can I not love you all? I’m sure we all took something to keep from this one semester and hopefully we’ll be grouped together for our next term as well! 😉

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Tonight I’m dead drained but exceptionally thankful for everything that I’ve been through this past month. Soul-sucking, draining and disillusioning at times but no gain comes w/o pain, yes? 🙂 Plus, a big thank you to those who’ve actively been there for me this month – Jean, Weetiong, Rachel (in spirit because she’s practically vanished off my radar), Liansheng, Yogesh, my MOB group, Kai, and most of all my family, not least of whom my mom, who’s had to take care of me when I concuss on my bed every afternoon. Thank you all :’)