65 | Baby Steps.

It’s been one hell of a week, guys.

Last week I said my crazy week was a prelude to a hell week. And I wasn’t joking at all. It was quite literally hell. Every single day I was dragging myself everywhere. I don’t know how my body is coping with all of this. I don’t have the capacity to plan forward any more, I’m just living each day as it comes. Yet though I may complain, I do not regret.

The whole week was filled with academia, projects, writing and language classes. Oh, and the unforgettable Singapore Writer’s Fest 2013, but we’ll get to that. The constant exhaustion peaked on Wednesday when I stumbled home after my playread at SRT and asked, “Why the hell do I do this?” Existentialist crisis, I know. I’ve always told myself that I don’t naturally have enough discipline, focus and aptitude to license any slacking and so I work two times harder to be where I want to be and occasionally I just ask if that’s really what I want. To subject myself to this kind of insane schedule just to be able to pursue my dreams. I guess there is really nothing else I want to do with my life. Someone reminded me  to think back to my initial motivation for pursuing theatre and I realized that there isn’t. I dabble in poetry as well. Language and words just flow in my blood, it’s not something I can distance myself from. All my writings come from a rather primal need to catalogue my world, to process the insanity, atrocity and blessings around me. It’s a visceral, burning need for me to write so I can deal with.. life at large. I can run, but I can’t hide.

I was very happy on Saturday because I got to meet one of my favourite people in the world and go for my very first Singapore Writer’s Fest! Imagine, a $15 pass (which I felt was pretty justified after the first workshop) and you get to attend so many events. I attended a panel discussion with Desmond Sim & Alfian Sa’at, two of my local favourites, as well as attend a rather entertaining discussion on Singlish in Literature. I was enjoying myself until lo and behold, my phone’s display decided to die on me.

I am not someone who can’t live without my phone. In fact, after the initial disbelief (it is a 2-month old iPhone that’s only been dropped twice, and the second time was on a pillow) I was enjoying the rest of the day being uncontactable. I’m not saying I enjoy dumping people on their asses but I’m beginning to realize that people are just throwing me their own problems without thinking of how to resolve it themselves. So I told all of them to settle their issues themselves until my phone was fixed, and left it at that.

In the evening we got to attend a poetry event, which took us around Biennale exhibits while poetry by heavyweights such as Aase Berg, Ng Yi-sheng and Cathy Park Hong were being performed. And boy, it was a beautiful event. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it quite as much with the distraction of my phone. There is a certain familiarity about being in a world shrouded in words and language that calms me and gives me strength. I felt so refreshed by the end of the night! A most memorable day indeed. 🙂

The next day, I headed to get my phone fixed and thank goodness, Singtel gave me a one-for-one exchange! I don’t know how much more difficult it would be to get through e-learning week without my phone. I think the guy at the counter must’ve been amused when he saw the delight on my face, because I honestly felt like I’d struck gold.

In the afternoon I left Korean class early to meet FD, and we headed for another panel discussion where Anthony Chen, Heman Chong, Park Young-ha and Kuo Jian Hong were discussing the utility value of art. Interesting proposition but probably not so for me, because if I didn’t think art was useful I wouldn’t be ready to dump a life’s work into it, would I? Furthermore, I am not a very rational person when it comes to choosing between passion or stable living. I am still very adamant that I will give up all for my art, or you could also say I live with rose-tinted shades. Hmm.

Went to the main pavilion to ask if there were still tickets for Jung Chang’s workshop on Monday (and I was so desperate sigh! Unforunately, there weren’t any left) but the consolation came when I went to the shelf and found two books of Jung Chang’s that I’d been searching for extensively to no avail: Mao, the Unknown Story & Empress Cixi. Now, if you haven’t guessed already, I’m kind of a ancient China geek, and Empress Cixi, Wu Zetian as well as Chairman Mao will always be enigmas to be. So I forked out $42 (with discounts from festival pass!) to buy these two books which total about 1.8k pages of beautiful history chronicled –

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We then proceeded to grab more books at Esplanade Library. Oh, the two of us, we’re unstoppable, really.

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In conclusion, despite it being a very draining and rough week, I have felt very very loved indeed. My friends have been there every step of the way – calming me, making coffee for me, making me laugh, loving me, encouraging me – and I’m charmed, thank you very much, I’m charmed indeed. 🙂

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64 | Frenzied Haste

It’s been a crazy week, guys.

Between schoolwork and chapter and theatre work and my languages I barely have time to do anything else at all. I barely know where to put my attention at all! I guess I expected to be busy but just not this level of frantic rushing. Anyway, SB had our first SB Day/Orange Day on Wednesday and there was footage on CNA if you watch the news. Had a great time w/ the 02 lovelies and here is the evidence:

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We ended up playing Cluedo in Hilltop Haven.

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A beautiful class photo ♥

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The other highlight of the week would be that I caught Atomic Jaya with Elainn on Friday because a friend gave me free tickets. 🙂 And it was a serious riot! Other than the very skilfully penned script, Claire Wong and Karen Tan are so gifted at acting that I lost myself thoroughly in the show! Also, I am a sucker for multilingual plays so this really got to me. Had us in stitches (and that annoying lady behind us who laughed like a snorting pig)!

Elainn then came to my place for a sleepover and we foolishly decided to watch Glee – the tribute episode to Cory Monteith titled “The Quarterback” – despite her having to go to school early and me having to go for dramatic writing classes later that day. Very bad decision indeed because I began crying 3mins into the first song (they sang 525, 600 Minutes/Seasons of Love oh no I cannot) and by the time Rachel came on with Make You Feel My Love I just wept endlessly. Oh, Cory, how will you ever know the ways you’ve touched our lives?IMG_1940

Zoomed straight to SRT for dramatic writing classes and I say this really honestly, I’m going to miss SRT so much when I’m gone, like having withdrawal symptoms. I have become so accustomed to going for theatre week after week without fail that when this term ends I pretty much don’t know what I’m going to do with my life. 😦 Read through our scripts with Bill and I truly enjoy hearing all of their writing. Can’t wait for the showcase of our pieces in Jan 2014!

Headed to the Esplanade to chill out and reward myself for being punctual for school for an entire week (this is nothing short of a miracle) and saw this amazing art installation called Circle of Hope by Octo Cornelius at the main foyer and it was on deforestation in Indonesia. Go and see it, guys.

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“Why do you keep changing homes?”

It semi-depresses me to think that the hustle and bustle of this week was just a prelude to next week’s madness. With Singapore Writer’s Fest, Career Fest and projects to be completed in Week 4.. I will really need some time to recuperate during e-learning week. I’ll be tuning in to lectures in my PJs, by the way.

An OOTD to end things off on a brighter note:

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And of course, not forgetting to show off my swanky, eco-friendly new pencilcase that I got from a stationery shop in Plaza Sing. Do also note the inordinate number of lipsticks in the background. That’s not even counting my favourite Revlon Super Lustrous (Peach Me), Clinique Chubby Sticks (Oversized Orange & Mega Melon) as well as my two DHC ones in my bag, bringing that count to a holy number of FOURTEEN. And these are just the frequently used ones! By golly, I am an addict.

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Just gotta grit my teeth and tough it through the week yo.

63 | Back In The Fray

I hadn’t realized how much I missed 02 until I actually got back to SP and met them again.

It’s true, I’d enjoyed the seven week sabbatical, but nothing beats being around these lovely people who are always off-kilter and all a little neurotic. Going through the first semester with them has really cemented my affections for them and now life would be a lot quieter without them, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

And by off-kilter/neurotic, I mean being so trigger-happy that it’s bordering absurd.

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A simple trip to the toilet ended in glee.

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Such a cute photo I feel!

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W/ the guys, all of whom tower over me 😦

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Monkey business in the second hour of accounting because 02 is just like that.

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A hug from sweet Qianying! I feel so loved 🙂

Tuesday was a public holiday though, so Rachel and I quickly grabbed Ms Cecilia Tan, the current VP of South View, for a girls’ day out. We’d wanted to visit Super K for Korean BBQ before going for Cake Spade, but both were unfortunately closed, so we stormed other Korean BBQ restaurants before heading to explore Chinatown and Tiong Bahru.

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Red Dot Museum & Peck Seah Street. Love such quaint signs!

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Sweet treats at the highly acclaimed TBB, which, tbh, doesn’t have anything on Flock >(

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With the best friend of 6 coming 7 years! 🙂

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Because I always make good use of sunlight.

Wednesday meant back to school, and so more chaos ensued.

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Homegirl. So thankful and blessed to have this sweet peach around! 

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Our group won the straw tower challenge cuz we touched the skies.

Attended Matchbox Mayhem after school, an arts-based networking event, and I finally saw Rocco! Also met the friendly people from Couch Theatre, Rocco’s friend Rachel and owner of Peatix, Fabian! I don’t think I’ll ever truly get sick of networking and finding new connections in my life. :’)

The next day was back to school though, and somehow, all of us use accounting lessons to camwhore.

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Janice’s default “I Can’t Close My Mouth” face. Also, my “Delighted To Meet You” face.

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I swear I didn’t hear Syahirah say “Eh, sexy face hor!”

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Grin grin grin. 🙂

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Birthday boys & girls. Happy birthday y’all! *blows candles*

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All of them making wishes. Ian looks so delightedly pensive!

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W/ Claudia, who’s always dressed impeccably. Love her! 

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Found a nice place to take photos just behind my place!

Skipped my first lesson today because.. honestly, 8AM mornings?! Who does those? Sigh. Nevertheless, had a really enjoyable day –

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How many shots of Janice have you seen in this post alone already? 

Had a catch-up chat with Cynthia at Flock for three whole hours over coffee. Nothing beats good girl-bonding time! 🙂 She tried the Dark Chocolate Cake & Nymph of the Nile tea and gave me serious cravings as well. 😦 Thank goodness though because I had my usual Banoffee with Iced Mocha and that sort of settled the craving. Sort of.

Left to meet Liansheng & Noel for Sheares at the Substation soon after. One thing I love about theatre is how you see the same faces over and over at productions because it’s the same interconnected people you work with. I also really love meeting new people so this was a truly enjoyable evening!

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It’s been a great week guys, Sem 2 is off to a good start. I can feel it in my bones.

61 | I’m Alive

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Bottom picture (L to R): Juan Jackson (Doctor), Nathan Hartono (Gabe), Sally Ann Triplett (Diane), Adrian Pang (Dan), Julie Abueva (Natalie), Linden Furnell (Henry)

Pangdemonium has nary a time disappointed me completely with their productions. In fact, most of them are stellar. I’ve watched quite a few in the short span of a year or so: Swimming With Sharks in 2011, and more recently, Rabbit Hole. Now, it’s a fantastic staging of Next to Normal.

This is the fifth performance so far and already people have been saying that it’s better than the Broadway version (which is a really high call). To be honest, I’d been skeptical of local musical theatre, and even more doubtful when people told me it’s better than Broadway. Yet NTN went far and above my expectations for a local musical theatre piece, and I am now a diehard fan.

First of all, let’s start with the stellar cast. Sally Ann Triplett plays Diana, the bipolar mother who is still reeling from grief. Her powerful performance each night makes you wonder how she summons the emotional strength to keep at the role powerful at a visceral level. Although frankly speaking I should have expected this gut-wrenching performance from her after the sitzprobe I watched, I still got socked by the depth of the paranoia and fear portrayed. Adrian Pang plays Dan, the stricken father who is trying to hold his family and wife together as he struggles not to fall apart himself. Oh, Adrian, your performance was the most heartbreaking of the nights. Never mind that your role was meant to illicit tears, but your depiction of the unerringly faithful, vulnerable partner was heartrendingly realistic and beautiful.

Nathan Hartono as Gabe was a splendid choice for me. He has enough exuberance and the energy to bring the whole concept of being alive to another level entirely. His voice, although lacking in vocal power, has a metal edge and even takes on a really sinister undertone as he sings Aftershock. For a soothing singer like him I was really surprised. Julie Abueva packs a punch in her performance of Natalie, the angsty teenage girl who is forced to bury her own desires and hunger. She was angsty, yet not overbearingly so, leaving space for the audience to empathize and love her back. Oh, and as Matthew Lyon of InkpotReview puts it, she still sings like God’s younger sister.

Juan Jackson and Linden Furnell as Doctor & Henry were commendable as well. Juan Jackson put up a great showing with the rock parts yet a persuasive performance when trying to convince Diana to stay in treatment. Linden Furnell is a spectacular rendition of younger Dan/faithful lover who doesn’t give up. I don’t think anyone left the theatre untouched by Henry’s devotion and love for Natalie!

Overall, I felt that the set design of this local production was better than the Broadway one, if not least for the fact that the Broadway production had 3 levels which could leave one feeling a little distanced. The set of the local production left you feeling like Gabe was constantly either running about in Diana’s mind or manifested himself in her delusions. He was very rarely out of her mind, in fact. The two-level set also made it convenient for Gabe to run around while singing I’m Alive, a perfect example of how ubiquitous he is. The set definitely worked in his favour.

I watched this production twice, and I have no regrets. Next to Normal is a musical that gets under your skin and pricks you long after you have left the theatre. Again, this is a thought-provoking piece, and definitely not for the feel-good musical theatre lovers. If Pangdemonium restages it, I would rewatch it (again) and purchase anything they’ll record. This is definitely in the running for my top 5 favourite stagings of the year.

My tracklist of NTN songs has been looping since the day I left the theatre, and here are my top 5 favourite showtunes:

1. I’ve Been – Aaron Tveit and J. Robert Spencer
Perfect track to showcase Dan’s undying love for his wife even through the most shocking and tough days. And that harmonization is simply a piece of Heaven, it moves me to no end!

2. A Light In The Dark – J. Robert Spencer and Alice Ripley
Persuasive husband convincing wife to take treatment. Another really tear-jerking moment in the musical. Sigh!

3. Why Stay? – A Promise – Alice Ripley, Jennifer Damiano, Adam Chanler, J. Robert Spencer, Aaron Tveit
A very brutal question thrown right into our hearts and then a reminder of a promise that Dan/Henry made to Diana/Natalie. Heartwarming!

4. Perfect For You – Jennifer Damiano, Adam Chanler
Isn’t this the most unorthodox confession song ever? I still love it though.

5. Make Up Your Mind/Catch Me I’m Falling – Next to Normal Cast
I think this has the whole play summed up. Damn. The feels.

58 | Not A Height to Scale

Had a leisurely time the past few days despite the rushing because nothing really ruffles my feathers when I can still cough out time to relax with my friends, esp my closest ones! 🙂 Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Folded this heart at Macdonald’s on Saturday just before Trojan Women. The paperclip was supplied by Liansheng, and you can imagine the look of surprise on my face when he magicked this out of his wallet. A man who carries paper clips around in his wallet all the time. I like.

I really liked the young actors’ rendition of Trojan Women. It was my first time watching this piece performed so great job Vanessa, Deborah and Vignesh, you guys have gotten this piece so imprinted in my mind now. The lyrical feel of the entire text is simply amazing – thank you Ellen McLaughlin for adapting this! It’s a simple tale with not so simple repercussions and messages that almost ask you to get up and do something about the way things are at present.

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Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Mahjong with Fraser, Yuanchen, Kimtat, and Haikal on Monday 🙂 I’m improving, and I have never been more attracted to this game before. IMG_1142 New iPhone cases from society6. I am smitten – both of these are very me, don’t you think? Also, don’t even try putting a name to the kind of style I like. It’s very erratic, eccentric, eclectic, whatever you call it. It’s anything but ordinary. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset   Hit Pies & Coffee with Mummy on Tuesday – nothing beats Flock I still say! We went there primarily for The Cheese Ark where I bought a block of Francine cheese. Lovely salty taste that melts on your tongue. Mild yet not bland and definitely still flavourful. What’s not to love?

Happiness is accumulated like a tub of water after a downpour, and it’s never something that you have to actively search for. Sometimes happiness is simply looking around and being aware enough to collect it as it pours down on you.

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:

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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!

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..

MOB1

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! 😉

MOB2

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 :’)

51 | Full Circle

Cr: sonicbrat

I know, this post is almost a week late, but I have gone through a week of hellish activities, but that’s material for the next post, so let’s focus.

First of all, what a wonderful production!

Once again, The Finger Players have gone above and beyond my expectations and left me in awe. Just look at the picture, and you’ll get what I mean.

I would have written this sooner and recommended it to more people, but I feel bad publicizing a show that sold out its full run – so you catch it the next chance you have, okay!

What impressed me the most about this production, in a nutshell, is that the stagecraft is simply magnificent. The entire stage is a giant blackboard – designs were drawn again and again using chalk and wiped off with wet cloths. There were specially designed 360-degree projectors and puppets. What’s not to love? The sound design was (literally) ground-shaking and I think these are so crucial to the play. People may only appreciate what’s on stage, but there is due recognition to be given also to the backstage crew.

I think it’s funny how for every production I go for – if it’s the right time for me to experience it – there will be ‘coincidental’ happenings that are a little too coincidental to be true. Along the week, words like karma, cyclical, 成全 (fulfillment of something), 还原 (returning to ground zero) have been floating around in my head due to several events. When a play has backing like this, the emotional investment and thus emotional catharsis/harvest is way richer.

This play dealt with a myriad of big themes: death, religion, familial ties, etc. and they were a little ambitious and touch-and-go with everything but I think overall they did manage to get the scaffolding covered. It’s just that I was not as emotionally involved as I would have liked to be. I could only feel a distant tugging at my heartstrings and I was a little distracted from the storyline with the splendid stagecraft. Yet this is a show that is truly one-of-a-kind, and what’s more, please do go and read articles from UrbanKulit and the video interviews that OZ Kaleidoscope uploaded and you will be pleasantly surprised by the ‘coincidences’ that took place in the creation of this work as well! 🙂

Alright, off to bed.

PS: The Finger Players are bringing back Roots for their season next year – don’t miss it! I’m warning you!

50 | Fat Pig.

fat pig

Got up today and immediately felt like something was very, very wrong.

Then I realized, at 10.50AM, that’s probably about the time I ought to be at TYC already. 😥

I may have mentioned to some before that we have no more regular weekly classes, just fortnightly meetings and workshops. I’ve been feeling the pang since leaving class – this whole week I’ve been an emotional trainwreck, then caught a flu bug, and been unnecessarily stressed out by unforeseen circumstances. Sounds like a terrible week, eh?

The only thing I had to look forward to was Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig, produced by Yellow Chair Productions today, to allay the pervasive sense of loss and emptiness that I’ve been grappling with all week.

Anyway, I met Elainn after Korean class today (thanks babe for agreeing to catch this production with me) and headed to Bugis+ where we shopped and had a great dinner at Manhattan Fish Market! She’s like this professional shopping buddy a.k.a friend who rejoices in telling you how ugly you’d look in *THAT*. We arrived at the Drama Centre in the nick of time!

Thoughts on the play as a whole: I felt like I got the gist of the play, but I wasn’t emotionally involved enough with the characters. The accents were distracting, the delivery was not truly “there” and I just couldn’t relate. I felt a twinge in my heart at the last scene, but other than that, all that was left to entertain was the comedy.

Issues-wise, I think more than just the ideals of beauty, self-image and the other issues that the programme said the play would deal with (and it did), I got more insights into love than anything else.

No one can truly answer concretely what is love, but let’s think about this for a second. Is love only between two people? What happens when the outside forces and circumstances that you can’t ignore (i.e. family, friends, society at large) come into play? Who do you listen to and heed? Is love capable of covering anything and everything? Perhaps it is too much to expect love to be able to encompass all the nasty things that can be thrown at two people in a relationship? Or maybe it’s what should be expected? How honest should we be in a relationship to quantify as truly ‘honest’? If one person holds back communicating in the name of protecting the other half, is he right or is he wrong?

The emotional moment of the play came for me in the last scene. I felt so much for Helen as she watched Tom disintegrate before her eyes. How painful it must be to be her in that moment in time – watching the man you love crumble because of issues that you introduced to the relationship, yet not being able to do anything about it.

Overall – a good day spent out with Elainn & boy oh boy I really do want/need to shop. It’s just that every time new shows come up, they are automatically propelled to the top of my wants list, and other things are pushed down again and again. No regrets though!

If you haven’t caught the play, you can get your tickets from TicketMash. 🙂