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Entries in M1 Singapore Fringe Festival (2)

Saturday
Jan112014

[Review] Suteru Tabi - M1 Singapore Fringe Festival

Suteru Tabi Photo credit: Shawn Bryon Danker

Four chairs on the stage and three towels set the stage. When the show begins, we see a man sitting in one of the chairs. There is a long pause and eventually he starts sobbing uncontrollably until he moves the chairs away. There is an air of fear in the audience as there is a threat of the actor possibly throwing the chair on stage.

Later on, it appears as if he is in between the state of anger and playfulness. I’m not sure whether he is a child trapped in an adult’s body or whether he suffers from a medical condition. Gradually, I discover that he is a child and this begins the journey of the play.

The magic of Suteru Tabi is in the complexity that is hidden in the simplicity. There is a reference to myth and continuous non-linear storytelling. We are in a half real, half memory, half dream state and an all-in-all elaborate world created by director Shiro Maeda.

Suteru Tabi Photo credit: Shawn Bryon Danker

In the post-show discussion, we discover how director Shiro Maeda purposely wrote this play with this format to tell a story in this manner. There is so much attention to detail and knowing that the play has been performed numerous times over the course of five years is interesting. I also discover that it was a piece meant for the domestic Japanese market yet has managed to connect with audiences around the world.

The theme of loss is perhaps the key. In the play, the main character revisits himself losing his dog and his unborn son to face his father’s death. The floating fleeting sensation evoked by this play is half hallucinatory and the illogical is soon accepted as the norm. In moments such as a scene at the hot springs, we are led to believe the characters are undressed even though they are fully clothed on stage. The strong acting transcends what is obvious and takes you into this universe.

By the end of the show, there is a reconnection with the opening scene with the burial of the father. We’ve been taken on an emotional journey and because of the narrative (or lack of a conventional linear narrative), it is as if we have woken up from a dream.

Suteru Tabi Photo credit: Shawn Bryon Danker

During the post-show discussion, the director explains more of the piece and how it has developed over the years. As with a piece like this, the cast has seen it change over the years. With a piece like this, it is worth revisiting as an audience member as well.

I hope I will.

- Az Samad, 10 January 2014 

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Saturday
Jan112014

[Review] An Enemy of the People - M1 Singapore Fringe Festival

An Enemy of the People Photo credit: The Pond Photography

As I enter the space, the actors move around the stage. At first I wonder whether they are already in character or not. Soon, I notice someone acknowledging an audience member. As the hall fills and eventually becomes full, the lights go out and the actors line up. They make announcements, thank the sponsors and the show starts. In this production, the actors take turns as narrators setting the scene. He or she describes the space, where the doors are and where we are.

The interesting part of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival’s presentation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People is on many levels. For one, it’s a translated work into Mandarin with surtitles. I don’t read or speak Mandarin but enjoy theatre regardless of language. On another level, the stage is sparse and the actors themselves move the props around in between scenes. It’s very minimal but presents enough objects on stage to create the mood. 

For the actual acting, hearing the dialogue being spoken in Mandarin is fascinating. Just like watching a foreign film, you do a balancing act of reading the translation and catching the nuances of the acting. Your mind does a composite of the translated words and the action on the stage. Part of the magic in this piece is how Nine Years Theatre manages to bring you into the piece being a part of the realism. There is the realism in the acting, the hyper realism in the exaggeration of the emotions and the sparse impressionistic nature of the set.

The story, now retold in a different language, with a tango musical backdrop brings attention how society often struggles with the same issues in different eras. The issues are timeless and the core of the problems never disappear, perhaps. In the end, sitting through the post-show discussion, there is a mention of the importance of ‘truth’ and how it is as an important value. In the end, the thoughts and questions we have after a piece leaves the space is all we have.

And, by then - theatre has done its job.

- Az Samad, 10 January 2014 

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