Raffles Players Presents: Derailed

By Keziah Lam (19A01B) and Sarah Chen (19S03C)
Photographs courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society

The production’s title – “Derailed” – kept us guessing up until the curtains went up and the show started. What would the performance be about? A train crash? A really distracted student? We couldn’t be sure. But there was one thing that was for certain – whatever we were imagining was not even half as good as what we got.

As the audience continued to chatter, waiting for the production to begin, actress Audrey Wan’s (19A13A) sudden unannounced entrance stunned us all. With the lights still on, the remaining cast members of the first play, Five Angry Spirits, emerged from the curtains and sat down, paying no attention to cheering friends and confused buzzing. After a few more moments of intriguing silence from the actresses, the lights finally dimmed and the show began.

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Just like the audience, the five angry spirits were waiting – but what for?

Five Angry Spirits

Masterfully written by Yu Ke Dong (19A13A) and Kuang Shane Qi (19A13A), Five Angry Spirits focused on the interactions between five very different people – a dictator, an aspiring astronaut, a teacher, a mother and an unexpected criminal – who are waiting to get interviewed to secure a spot in heaven. This was an angle less frequently explored since, as vice-chairperson Audrey Wan puts it, “normally stories are told while [people] are alive”.

With a minimalistic and monochrome choice of set, the focus was very much on the raw emotion and interaction between the actresses – who also served as stagehands –  as their characters took turns under the spotlight, re-enacting and examining the actions that each had taken when they were alive. The proximity of the stage to the audience (some of whom were seated on the floor right in front of the performance area) served to heighten the intimacy between the actresses and audience members. The effects were also well-timed and inventive, with the Criminal’s sequence (during which she channel-surfed in time to the lights and sounds) eliciting murmurs of awe from the audience.

Not only did the play draw laughs from the audience with its more comedic moments (notably during the Dictator’s bombastic character focus) and tug at their heartstrings (the Mother’s tender interactions with her daughter and the Teacher’s selfless protection of her students), the play managed to drive home much more pertinent and deep-reaching concerns about our actions in life and judgement after death.

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The other characters playing the part of the Dictator’s adoring supporters during her character focus.

The thought-provoking play was the result of multiple rewrites on the part of the Players – indeed, they had not decided on an ending until right before the production itself – ironic considering how the play concluded on an open-ended note, inviting audience members to judge the actions of the characters for themselves. The seamless intertwining of the various characters’ narratives also inspired us to reexamine the motivations behind our actions and those of the people around us as well as the repercussions that they would have on others. Mature and introspective, it was certainly a masterpiece of a play both in script and in performance.

 

Everything But The Brain

After the intermission, we were brought back into the Theatre Studies and Drama Room (TSD) for a play which again toyed with the concept of death, though with a plot and approach completely different from the first. Through the narration of the main character, Elaine, and three imaginary bears, the audience was sucked into a story spanning from Elaine’s childhood to her middle-aged years, focusing on her relationship with her father.

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Written by local writer Jean Tay, the play zooms in for an intimate portrayal of the relationship between a single father and daughter.

With both Elaine and her father having a passion for Physics, the play weaved in concepts from the field of study to tell an emotional story about the passage of time in our lives. Luckily for non-Physics students like us, the complex scientific theories and concepts were broken down into simpler terms with the help of the three bears: Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear.

For us, what made this play especially unique were the bears, who slipped in and out of scenes and played a crucial supporting role. By interacting with Elaine, they not only coaxed her thoughts and opinions out, but also added humour and entertainment to an otherwise bleak situation. Despite their general lighthearted approach when discussing matters of life and death, these comedic characters were responsible for some of the play’s most touching moments, such as when Mama Bear, standing alone in the spotlight, shed genuine tears towards the end of the play.

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Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear

This has, of course, not been said to downplay the brilliant performances put on by the other actors. As we all know, there is no relationship more complex, confusing, and infuriating as the one between a parent and a child. Because of the highly relatable struggles Elaine faced with her father, it was almost impossible not to feel Elaine’s overwhelming exasperation at her father’s stubbornness or tear up at her father’s rough-around-the-edges love for his only daughter.

Everything but the Brain’s strong focus on what time can do to a person also highlighted the temporal nature of human life, and this, combined with the frustratingly strained relationship between Elaine and her father, created an emotional journey which hit home for many of the audience members. It forced us to reflect on how we treat our family, how we express our appreciation and anger towards them, and the short-lived time we have with them.

With such a heavy topic at hand, it would be natural to expect a grim and depressing play – but then again, it wouldn’t be a Players production without some humour. In fact, parts of the play had the entire audience laughing, mostly thanks to Samuel, Elaine’s father’s doctor, whose side-plot with Elaine gave us many hilarious and cringeworthy (in a good way) moments. Through Everything but the Brain, Raffles Players cleverly told a story that was, at times, intensely emotional and others, delightfully humorous – but always meaningful and poignant, with lots for the audience to reflect on.

And so, the J1s’ first full production as a batch came to an end. “Our seniors kept telling us how J1 prod [was] sure to bond our batch very well and I never really believed that – until I saw it happen,” said Players member Loh Lin (19A01D). With every member, from director to cast to crew, putting in hours of effort, the production truly was a labour of love – emphasis on labour. Through putting on two plays drastically different from June’s comedic college production, 2018’s J1 Players showed us their batch’s unique character and prowess. We look forward to another display of their outstanding abilities in next year’s college production with great anticipation.

 

Credits

Five Angry Spirits
Directors/Scriptwriters: Kuang Shane Qi (19A13A), Yu Ke Dong (19A13A)
Cast: Ada Lum (19S06O), Audrey Wan (19A13A), Charmaine Teo (19A01B), Laura Sim (19A13A), Loh Lin (19A01D)

Everything but the Brain
Directors: Loh Su Jean (19A01A), Kevin Chiramal (19S06S)
Cast: Aidan Ong (19A01B), Adlina Anis (19A01D), Low Jia Yi (19S07B), Naia Nathan (19A01A), Ganeshaa Arul (19S03G), Fang Yihang (19A13A)

Crew
Lights & Sounds: Hannah Chia (19S06T), Shweta Kunaciilan (19A01D), Laura Sim (19A13A)
Publicity: Tay Xiteng (19A13A)
Costumes: Manuella Marie Pereira (19S06A)

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