Sunday 16 September 2012

Goh Lay Kuan & Kuo Pao Kun at the National Museum Theatre

When all five of the little old ladies sitting directly across me put on their sunglasses one after another and ended up looking for all the world like an art installation paying homage to Karl Lagerfeld, all I could think was "Who on earth gave them the insider intel?" The stage design included a couple of rows of long fluorescent bulbs cutting across the floor, and over the course of the play they burned into my retinas, an unnecessary discomfort in the grander scheme of things.

Karen Tan's Goh Lay Kuan was almost nothing like a dancer. Her movements were sparse, jerky and almost erratic. The point and flex exercises she performed in the middle also did very little to convince us of the fact. Instead, the character is steely, words cutting like flint. She is angry, exasperated, disappointed in turns, but always shot through with strength. In contrast, Lim Kay Tong has a highly watchable easy grace even when hamming it up. His character speaks Kuo Pao Kun's written words, even at one point literally wearing them like a shroud, appearing perhaps more fragile than the man actually was. 

The show was accomplished, but my favourite part was watching the other members of the audience as we sat in a circle around the stage. The stunning lady in blue whose expression did not vary the entire play, there to be seen. The old man who fell asleep halfway through and had to be prodded awake by his wife, an unwilling attendee. Everyone who barked out a short sharp laugh, quick and dirty as Lim Kay Tong brought us to the denouement of The Coffin is Too Big for the Hole, like we were all in on the same joke. 

Theatreworks Singapore,

Friday 7 September 2012

Platform 65 Presents: Rites and Regulations at 5Footway.Inn

Platform 65 was in Singapore for a local run of Rites & Regulations, a double-bill of an original work "aWake", and their adaptation of Kuo Pao Kun's "The Coffin is Too Big for the Hole". I'd always meant to catch one of their productions after meeting their founding director Cui in London last year, but I was never around or available at the right time. The stars finally aligned this summer, and I managed to attend the preview performance at 5Footway.Inn. 

The pre-show experience called for the audience to mill around the space, but the almost entirely Singaporean crowd parked themselves in their chosen bit of floor and stayed there. By the time the actors were rolled out, most people were quite happily rooted, making their subsequent shuffle out of the performance space sudden and somewhat embarrassed. When stools were passed out during the funeral scene, it was almost like playing musical chairs as my group found ourselves separated and packed shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers. 

For a show exploring life, death and the Taoist funerary experience in our cramped little city, the timing and venue, considered or not, contributed to the overall atmosphere. The smells and haze of the 7th month rituals followed us into the lobby of 5Footway.Inn. Inside, hostel guests padded past us with the quickened footsteps of people suddenly finding themselves inexplicably gate-crashing, much like the actual experience you find at HDB funerals. It's also an interesting thing, when people are forced into close confines with each other at an event like this. You start off backs ramrod straight, not touching, eyes averted from each other. As the evening wore on though, personal space became more negotiable, and I was trading smirks with audience members sitting across from me.

While the cast invariably suffered from first performance jitters, the actors were sufficiently accomplished to carry the show along with a few quick improvisations whenever space or technological glitches became an issue. Watching Ethel in action was also a particular joy.

It made for an enjoyable evening out. 

Platform 65,