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,

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