Cass and I caught a local play, titled Poor Thing, on Sunday, yesterday. The production was presented by The Necessary Stage, a theatre company located in Singapore. The playwright of this production is Haresh Sharma (who is the writer of the play I studied for Literature subject I took in school a few years back!) and the director is Alvin Tan. The production is rated R18 – for mature theme and coarse language (just plenty of those).
Out of the many Singaporean-based theatrical plays/musicals we’ve googled, we have decided on this one! There weren’t much information revealed in the synopsis of this play and the sequence of events/scenes that follows. But it certainly did turn out to be more interesting than what I’ve expected. The audience were shown a prologue video before they enter the setting of the play.
The road rage incident spans across an one-hour scene, involving 4 characters, namely – Alisha, Jevon, Jerome and Sharifah. Jerome and Alisha – as the rich couple who were on their way back home after the company’s dinner and dance. It was a remote and dark road, so Jevon was driving the car at a really slow speed. The car behind them was driven by Sharifah, who just recently got her driving license. She was driving Jerome back to his camp.
Sharifah and Jerome were already showing signs that they were displeased at how slowly the car infront of them was moving along the road, i.e. waving frantically at them and making hand signals inside their car. Jevon was distracted by his drunk wife, which caused him overlook the ‘stop’ sign by the side of the road and his car was brought to a sudden halt. Eventually, you can expect what happens next: Sharifah was caught unaware and accidentally hit Jevon’s car in the front. And there, a minor road accident which led to a series of conflicts afterwards.
The setting of this play is unlike the common setting of most plays/musicals, where there is a clear distinction drawn between the cast and the audience members – with the leveraged stage and spotlight’s on the cast while the audience stays hidden in the dark to watch the play. In this production, it is all staged in one room where the cast and props are gathered in the center of the room and we (as the audience) stay glued to the walls of the room. There’s always eye contact; between the cast and the audience and even among the audience members, as we glanced across the other side of the room.
Although (I feel that) it seems like an original and fresh concept to utilize in such theatrical productions, personally I didn’t like being in such intimate contact. Awkward eye contact isn’t the only thing that the audience is exposed to! Especially when this is a play on road rage. You see, it can get touchy sometimes. Occasionally, the tugging, bashing, cat fights and violent losing-it moments spilled on to the audience. Could it be an intentional trick incorporated into the play by the director to engage the audience?
The play catches you unexpectedly in the sense that it’s difficult to determine who’s in the right and the wrong as it progresses. Eventually, there comes a point when every party is at fault. First, the incident started out as a mere and civilized discussion of who should take responsible of the dents and scratches inflicted on the car. Then, other sensitive issues were suddenly thrown into the discussion, e.g. social class/status, etiquette, culture, race, even sexual orientation, and especially religion.
Before the play, the audience were asked to befriend Jerome on Facebook so we can browse through the status updates, pictures and videos uploaded while the play was presented. From the audience’s feedback, it seems that they didn’t really like this idea because it served as a sort of distraction. However, I do not think so, since there were plenty of “moments of silence” interventions (moments which the characters were recollecting their thoughts after each heated argument) during the play and there would be enough time for us to do so.
The cast was amazing in depicting the wrath resulting from the road rage! It feels too real to be staged! All hail to all theatre people! But I don’t know how likely it is for a minor car accident to incur such an overwhelming wrath between the parties involved. There were several “ooh burn!” moments, which brought much laughter to the audience, even myself and those were mainly harmless remarks made by one party to retaliate the other party’s insults.
Whether it is a “typical Singaporeans” thing (as mentioned in the trailer), I think it depends more on the individual’s way of handling the problem, rather than it being associated to the country’s culture to handle this in a certain manner. However, I think there’s some correlation with the Singaporean culture going on with the implication of social media in this play, as to STOMP – an “illegitimate” news website which the news available ranges from an army officer having lunch in a coffee shop with his uniform on, to “chope-ing” seats with tissue packs and all the way to videos of road rage incidents, like this one.