By Hu Fangda (12A03A)
“Well, we don’t mind you doing the coverage but won’t there will be a conflict of interest? You are a Player, after all.”
“I’m interested in doing the preview. Players are interested in doing the preview. Double jeopardy; I’ll be fine.”
“I don’t think that’s not how double jeopardy works, Fangda.”
“I think I’m a raccoon.”
And it is with this typical journalistic shrewdness of mine that I schmoozed my way into reviewing Island Life, a double bill brought to you by Raffles Players featuring the works of two greats of the Singaporean stage: More by Haresh Sharma and Block Sale by Eleanor Wong, Island Life is a sampling of some of the finest pieces of local dramatic writing. In the words of actor Jonathan Lee (13A01A) who is making his acting comeback after his award-winning role in 2012 Dramafest, “I think you can expect two very intriguing and thought-provoking plays, relevant and reflective of our society as a whole – in our pursuit for material wealth, are we losing ourselves, are we losing who we are, and who have we become in this mad rat race for power and wealth?”
Alongside the usual acting heavyweights are new talents who are just making their dramatic debut in Island Life, such as Ian Teoh (13A01D) who has found his role to be nothing short of a challenge. “I have to switch around between a few roles. It is very tiring as these are all very energetic roles. I have to put a lot into the role and move around a lot,” says Ian.
Included in the line-up is the Players’ Gold With Honours play More, a conceptual theatre piece written by Haresh Sharma as part of his Shorts 1 anthology of plays produced during his tenure as playwright-in-residence of the prolific local theatre company The Necessary Stage. It is a play about material greed and unfettered ambition in Singapore but like all good theatre, Players hope that their rendition of More will challenge the audience to form their own interpretations and in so doing take the CCA to a new level of dramatic excellence.
“I hesitate to label More as a play about greed because it’s so much more than that. And I think it will mean different things to different people but my basic hope is that it will resonate with our audience in a way none of our previous productions have,” remarks Bjorn Lee Varella (12S03H). Indeed, the goal of Players has always been to question and go against the grain, with a focus on audience interactivity, while at the same time staying true to the intents of the script and the essence of Singaporean life it attempts to capture. “You can expect to see your life in Singapore on stage performed by people you don’t know and who have a story to tell. We won’t just preach to you about the evils of greed and the shortcomings of the Singapore dream, we’ll show it to you. And we’ll prod you to reexamine the way you live,” sums up chairperson Jasmine Liu (12S03K).
For the CCA as a whole, the journey leading up to SYF have been one of self-discovery and toil. Says Sarah Tan (12A03A), “I started work on More during a relatively stress-free time during my Year 6 life. As we got more heavily involved in More, my other commitments became heavier as well. So my personal journey in More mirrors the journey of the play’s characters from innocent dreams to tension-filled ambition”.
Eleanor Wong first exploded into the Singapore theatre scene with her seminal trilogy of plays Invitation to Treat in the late 1990s’ and her play about the obsession with the local property market Block Sale is widely recognized to represent the pinnacle of her dramatic career. Block Sale presents a topical issue through the eyes of an ensemble of psychologically deep and realistic characters as is typical of Eleanor Wong’s work. Says Jonathan about his character, “He’s not intrinsically evil but more of someone who is so consumed by his needs and desires that he is willing, even eager, to sacrifice his loved ones and those around him.” This is a work that forces audiences to confront and look at some highly pertinent and yet highly uncomfortable questions in the eye, revealing truths about ourselves that we, frankly, may have been happier not knowing. “I think our play says things that don’t get said often enough,” concurs Bjorn.
The journey of the two plays to production has reflected the Players’ near pathological dedication to producing great theatre. Says Jasmine, “This was a very tough period because we were stretched for manpower due to SYF.” Nevertheless, she expressed her utmost trust in her juniors. Sarah recounts one of her memories of the production process, right after the SYF results had been announced. “Jazzy had a very serious face and the EXCO were gathered in front of us with a very serious face and she were saying things like “no matter what we’re all proud of you” so I had this sinking feeling that it was going to be a Silver and I turned around to glance at Cheryl who didn’t dare to meet my eyes. And then suddenly like a dream she said ‘Gold with Honours’ and we erupted!” Cruel joking and tomfoolery aside, plenty of hard, hard work has been poured into making this production a success by both J1s and J2s. “I don’t think our juniors have compromised the quality in any way and I hope that when you see our two plays on stage the effort will show,” reports Jasmine. “Island Life is over a longer period whereas Dramafest was much more intense over a shorter period. We also learnt about lighting and sound and there was a lengthier and more complex script in Island Life,” says Jillian when asked to compare the two productions.
As advertised in the incredibly cute posters seen around school, tickets to this production will be on sale at the ludicrously (nay, almost criminally) low price of $8 throughout this week at the canteen walkway. I have been assured that tickets are absolutely flying off the books and that in order to catch these two wonderful works of local theatre right here at our Performing Arts Centre this very Friday and Saturday at 7pm, one should get their tickets quickly. I know of a raccoon that will be positively distraught if you aren’t able to get hold of your tickets.
Check out Island Life For Sale’s publicity video below!