By Elizabeth Leong (18S06G), Ling Young Loon (18S07A) and Zhu Xiuhua (18S06A)
On 18 May 2018, the Chinese Language and Drama Cultural Society (CLDCS) presented to its audience a variety of art forms in the Performing Arts Centre (PAC). Viewers were treated to original songs and a heartfelt play, and could appreciate the CCA’s calligraphy exhibition during the intermission. The night’s theme was 寻觅 (xun mi), which literally means “to search”, though it was more figuratively translated to “Lost and Found?”
The first song of the night was 关山月 (guan shan yue, or The Moon at the Fortified Pass). The piece was inspired by a poem of the same title written by Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai. It featured intricate lyrics heavy with imagery, highlighting the struggles of a soldier at war and the pain of missing someone far away from the battlefield.
Among other standout tracks, the titular song, 寻觅 (Xún mì), was also a lovestruck lament, with the repeated lines “maybe it’s my excessive greed / I still seek her, her shadow, her heartache”. The desperation of the singer is highlighted in the final lines: “no matter how I search… only finding you will be enough.” 雨中漫步 (yu zhong man bu, or Serenading in the Rain) highlighted the pain of getting over a past love, ending on a hopeful note: “I have learned to let go / And let you drift away with the wind”.
The last song was a great departure from the rest, taking the form of a hilarious surprise rap battle. Bright, blinding lights shone from the PAC stage, prompting the audience to turn around and pay attention to the staircases behind. The two performers slowly descended these stairs, dressed in stereotypical American rapper apparel. Their rap was titled 速食主义 (su shi zhu yi or Fast Foodism), and it was a carefully crafted, amusing piece that drove the audience into bouts of unstoppable laughter.
All in all, every song had intricate and well-thought through lyrics, with brilliantly crafted melodies. And indeed, the audience had a good time listening to the music that the CCA had to offer.
The calligraphy exhibitions
During the intermission, the audience made their way out of the theatre to admire the calligraphy exhibitions on display. This year, CLDCS put up a diverse range of exhibitions, some of which subverted expectations.
When Chinese calligraphy is mentioned, one would likely picture classical Chinese prose and poetry written on Xuan paper in ebony ink with elegant brushstrokes. This year, however, CLDCS also showcased a collection of calligraphy works done by Sally Yang in fountain pen – which one usually does not immediately associate with Chinese calligraphy – alongside their more traditional brush calligraphy counterparts.
In the midst of classical Chinese prose and poetry, such as 爱莲说 (Ài lián shuō) by 周敦颐 (Zhōu dūn yí) and 独坐敬亭山 by 李白 (Li Bai), a Chinese translation of Sweetest Little Song by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was spotted. Other calligraphy works included Chinese couplets and modern Chinese poems such as 立秋 (Lì qiū) by 郑重 (Zhèng zhòng).
A woman who bears children; what children address their birth parent as (with a tone of affection)
It may sound like a Channel 8 Taiwanese hoo-haa: a sluggish, uninspiring drama that lumbers through the treachery of human relationships. Yet, unlike what the name suggests, this year’s CLDCS production was unexpectedly heartwarming, albeit a little cliche. The central theme of the play was, as the name suggests, a mother’s love. Surely this does not tally with the grandiose themes of Great Gatsby, or the sublimity of Shakespeare, but that was exactly what this play was about: a tribute to those who have raised us, and a nod to the trunk of all Chinese virtue — filial piety.
The play introduced the audience to a future world where robots are inseparable from humans. A young son (Jowell Ling from 19S07B) immediately begins lambasting his “robot” mother, a so called substitute for his biological mother who died an unknown death. It is a wretched situation, and the acrimony of the teenager shocks the audience. Such maltreatment from child to mother felt unrealistic at times, but the emotive acting kept the audience in thrall.
The plot shifts when the son storms out of the house in search of his biological mother. Furious, yet marred by disappointment, he finally finds a wily lookalike whom he insists is his mother. Played by Zhang Xinyi from 18S06F, this hip swaying character spoke with a promiscuous slang that was hard to forget.
The storyline accelerates as the lookalike admits, rather ostentatiously, to their mother-son relationship. The son jumps at the opportunity and leaves his robot mother with an indifferent goodbye. Zhang Tianyu from 18S05A aptly captured the poignancy of the moment, speaking in motorized verses that underscored the wedge in her heart.
Further into the play, a rogue encounter with a rich man (played by Kuo Chuan Tseng of 18S06R) exposed the obvious truth: The woman was not his real mother. Though more an underwhelming disclosure than a plot twist, the anguish of the young boy was unmistakably jarring.
Fast forward:, The boy’s aunt, played by Shao Siying from 19S06F, is shocked to hear about the flood of events. Distraught and frazzled, she began to spill a questionable truth — the robot mother wielded the consciousness of his real mother. In fact, his mother had been badly injured saving her son from a fire, and has lived in a mechanic shell ever since. This was an unconvincing scene, but the acute dialogue left no audience off the hook.
The play culminated in an impressionable climax, as Aunt and Son worked to rescue the mother from a scrapyard. This scene was the tip of melodrama: the boy’s earnest pleas and sobs tickled our hearts. But all was too late. The mother would be naught as the lights dimmed out.
Overall, CLDCS pulled off a hugely successful concert this year, with performances centered around a clear theme of searching for love. The songs had catchy melodies and interesting lyrics; the calligraphy exhibitions were diverse in range and exposed us to calligraphy works different from what we were familiar with; the play was delivered smoothly and ended off on a powerful note, tugging at our heartstrings.
Raffles Press awaits CLDCS’ concert next year and looks forward to another high-quality production.