By Abigail Ang (18S06B), Asfar Alim (18S03J), Deborah Lee (17A01D), Sabariesh Ilankathir (17A13A), Zhu Xiuhua (18S06A)
After a one-year hiatus, Dramafeste made a spectacular comeback this year with impressive plays from each house.
BB – Matters of the Crib
This touching story about processing grief is unfolded through the eyes of Val (Sadia Tasneem, 17A03A), a daughter trying to comprehend the seemingly irrational actions of her mother who had recently suffered a miscarriage.
Catherine Zou (17A01B) delivered a convincing performance as Ling, a mother who seems to bounce back quickly and stay strong in the face of losing a child, claiming how she is a “career woman”, whilst assuring her children that she has recovered from the shock of her miscarriage.
Any misconception that this play might remain lighthearted was quickly dissipated as the calmness and domesticity of the early scenes shifted to one of confrontation and argument. When Val proposes throwing away a beloved crib to make space for a new desk, an argument erupts between mother and daughter. Ling insists on the value of the crib as an emblem of the family’s personal history. The tension between mother and daughter was impressively executed — Val’s vehement declaration that the crib was mere “sentimental crap” settled uneasily over the audience as they awaited Ling’s response.
The comedic timing of Jayden Kang (18S06N) was particularly impressive in dissolving the tension as he strides into the scene in bewilderment. The audience seemed to appreciate the comic relief Jack brought to the play, whose endearing use of ‘Singlish’ to discuss school issues made him particularly relatable to the audience. It is also Jack who ultimately explains to Val the simple reasoning for keeping the crib: ‘It is just how it is.’, making the overly-intellectual Val understand that grief is just what it is.
Overall, Buckle-Buckley presented a poignant play exploring a moving narrative of grief and familial connections, further enhanced by the commendable acting of the cast.
HH – Mirror
The curtains part, and the audience is greeted by HH’s minimalist set- a lone mirror in the centrestage is set against cardboard boxes in the background. Unlike the first play, which highlighted the source of conflict clearly, Mirror featured an introspective narrative that delved into themes such as self-esteem, depression, and society’s expectations of feminine beauty.
The play switches between two perspectives: that of a young girl (Lee Yun Ning, 17A01E), who is coming to understand the societal expectations placed on her, and that of Lady Lazarus (Kiara Pillai, 18A01B), who is confident and sophisticated. The Girl is stood up at prom by a boy she met at a party, who was busy doing cocaine that night (established by the group of boys hilariously fake-snorting across the boxes on stage), while Lady Lazarus is left waiting at the altar; though she insists on waiting in the beginning, she eventually realises that “he’s not coming, is he?”
The last scene was one of the most impactful in the play. It tied together the two storylines by having both characters appear together to gasps of revelation among the audience. However, there remained some confusion as to whether Lady Lazarus was the Girl’s mother or her older self. Although the play was, on the whole, emotionally impactful, its message was at times beyond the audience’s reach. A remark overheard from the audience was that it was “too deep for people like us”, as the metaphors and literary references often came too thick and too fast for the audience to understand them.
BW – The Mysterious Mannequin
Bagging the titles of Best Play, Best Script and Best Director, BW’s The Mysterious Mannequin was definitely one of the most coherent play of the bunch.
As the lights dimmed and the sound of heavy rain echoed throughout the PAC, the spotlight shines on the detective (Lai Jye Yi, 17S05A), who makes his way to the stage from the audience. He gives a prelude on a pressing case that he has to solve: the murder of the world-famous designer John Smith (Teo Yao Neng, 18S06R).The audience has a brief glimpse of three main suspects of this case: The tailor’s wife, Mrs Smith (Nurul Afaf, 18A01C), Chastity the maid (Robyn Wong, 18A01B) and the butler (Xinyu Liu, 18S05A). The audience then follows this detective as he learns about the characters of Mr Smith’s mansion and of what actually transpired there.
The set and lighting directions did a particularly good job in establishing the mood of the play. Flashing red lights, spotlights, and light changes were all utilised to full effect throughout the play: When Mrs Smith yells that she saw “a figure”, the sound of the door opening and glass shattering resonates and a brief flash of lights are observed, making the narration even more melodramatic.
The revelation that the mastermind of all the murders crimes took place through a creative scene showing the mastermind dancing with the deceased tailor, much to the shock and amusement of the audience. As the curtains closed, the tense atmosphere still lingered. With a combination of comedic timing, superb acting and appropriate dramatic acting, it was no wonder that BW managed to bag multiple awards for their play.
MR – The Portraits We Paint
BW’s play may have raised some goosebumps, but for many, it was Morrison-Richardson’s act that left the most chilling impression. Like in Hadley-Hullett’s Mirror, much of the play took place in the mind of the main character– only half of characters who appeared in the play were ‘real’.
The story revolves around a young artist, Nathan (Han Ze Nan, 18S06A), and his inner struggle to find value in himself and in those that surround him. His companions, the childish Jasper (Eugene, 18S03A) and the motherly Joan (Yeo Shi Wen, 18A13A) try to help Nathan understand more about himself but the audience is faced to question Nathan’s sanity when it is later implied that Joan and Jasper are actually figments of Nathan’s imagination, that are personified from his paintings. Although Nathan meets and falls in love with Natalie (Elisya Tung, 18S07B), who seems to understand Nathan better than anyone, this happiness is short-lived as Natalie eventually leaves him. He is forced to face the truth that Natalie, too, was a figment of his imagination.
MR’s ensemble was extremely effective in depicting the blurred lines between illusion and reality. This helped the audience to better understand Nathan’s instability, particularly showing the struggle and anger in a scene where Nathan destroys one of his paintings and symbolically “kills” one of his companions.
Ze Nan delivered an impressive performance in playing the volatile character of Nathan, especially in a heartbreaking monologue, which reflected his despair of being trapped in the same mistakes, and his loneliness. In Ze Nan’s words: “…the monologue compiled the play into a very nice ending.”
MT – Sea, Sky and The Ladder In Between
Serving as an excellent finale to Dramafeste 2017, MT’s ‘Sea, Sky and The Ladder in Between’ brings up some insightful thoughts on the concept of ‘the end of the world’, and shows the multifaceted nature of humans.
Sky and Sea, receive an unexpected birthday present; the postman delivers a letter from God, informing them that their birthday present is: The end of the world. While Sea (Hidayat Malik, 17S06B) exclaims, “Yes! Finally, they will leave us alone,” Sky (Wan Jia Ling, 18A01A) does not approve of this gift and tries to convince Sea that mankind is worth saving. The play chronicles their journey to different time periods and parts of the world to find out if humanity is worthy. The performances by Jia Ling and Hidayat lent an overall coherence to the play. While Sky was consistently optimistic about humanity, Sea bemoans the suffering that humans inflict on each other, forming an interesting tension throughout the play.
The ensemble and their interaction in the set further elevated the performance and made the events of the play accessible for the audience. One instance of this was during the Tower of Babel scene, when the backhands walked across the stage speaking a mish-mash of different languages, one of which we could discern was Mandarin, and many more which we’re sure could be recognised by those in the audience. Ultimately, though, they combined to form meaningless noise, reflecting when God gave humans different languages and scattered them in different parts of the world.
And of course, one of the more memorable moments was towards the end, where an elderly man and a young girl are sitting across from each other on nearby cliffs hoping to commit suicide. However, as the sunset turns from vivid orange to gorgeous pink and purples (the amazing work of the AVU team), they marvel at the sunset and the beauty of the waves. Eventually convinced by the beauty of life, both of them walk from the cliff unscathed, reaffirming Sky and Sea’s belief in humanity’s… well humanity.
Best Actor: Han Ze Nan as Nathan (MR)
Best Actress: Wan Jia Ling as Sky (MT)
Best Set: MT
Best Script: The Mysterious Mannequin (BW)
Best Ensemble: MT
Best Director: Jared Ong (BW)
Best Costumes: MT
Best Play: The Mysterious Mannequin (BW)
Beyond the excellent acting and directing of the night, however, there was a consensus that the lights and sounds crew were undoubtedly the backbone of the event. It is hard to imagine that such flawless execution was pulled off by a group of people who “probably have never set foot in [the control room] before”, and had only a 15 minute briefing from the AVU and three rehearsals to get everything right. On this point, Liang Yuzhao (17S06G), a member of the AVU, remarked that the lights and sounds crew, “…started with nothing” and “worked against some serious technical constraints.” Lin Jian Hern Iain (18S03C), a member of the lights and sound crew for BW, said that “although [the lights and sound crew has] no on-stage presence, I feel that we’ve been doing a lot of work. It’s really fun, because it’s like we are behind the scenes but not really behind the scenes. It’s also quite fun as we can get to support the actors.” Indeed, a lot of unseen effort have gone into the plays and let us once more appreciate the lights and sound crew, without whom the plays would not have been possible.
As Hidayat points out, “The Arts is essential. As you can see, there are so many Rafflesians meeting here and spending a good evening with each other. It’s important we continue supporting such activities so that Rafflesians have better work-life balance, and this is where we forge the Rafflesian spirit!”
It is heartwarming to see many students come along with their friends and support this event, as this shows the school’s interest and appreciation towards the arts, and ends up bringing the school closer together. We would also like to congratulate all the actors for putting up such splendid performances and the directors and scriptwriters for steering the direction of each play to be a unique performance.