Four Movies And A Day

This is about a day when I watched four movies in a row. Nothing special.

I can’t remember if I have ever done this before. Sure, I probably had done three movies in a day (across different locations!) during Singapore Film Festival decade ago when it was THE occasion to catch movies unlikely to get commercial release in Singapore. These days, there were far more opportunities to access non-commercial work.

I think I will miss the curation of SIFA when it changes hand from next year onwards. The O.P.E.N. film last year was a great feast for me to just wander into any previously unknown films whenever I could find time. This year, one ticket restricts you to six screening. Still, it is a steal.

So I found myself booked for only one movie on 08.07.17 but ended watching four that day.

 

Untitled

This was the one I registered prior to the screening, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it awed. It set out to be theme-less, thus untitled. Yet, the incidental sequence revealed more depths of life on this planet than any themed work that I have ever come across. The co-existence of brutality and beauty life presents itself in the journey taken by the film maker across the dark continent had me holding my breathes throughout the film.

Quite a number of reviews available online, e.g. this one.

 

Autumn, Autumn (Chuncheon, Chuncheon)

AT and CN texted me that they were both catching this, which made me decide to stay on at The Projector to continue. Another reason was that I did registered for the closing film this year which was a Korean film. By this bizarre association, I found myself interested in checking out this Korean film as well.

It turned out to be alright. It was made up of stories of two protagonists taking place in the same location. It was full of undercurrent of sadness, beneath the seemingly mundane conversations they had with other characters along their paths.

I did enjoy it but friends (AT and CN included) I spoken with outside the movie theatre were mostly underwhelmed.

 

Railway Sleepers

CN pre-registered this because she was a self-professed railway geek. I joined in because (a) AT and CN were staying on, thus providing momentum to me; (b) I have always enjoyed journey on railways, which possibly made me a closeted railway geek; (c) I’ve always enjoyed my holiday trip to Thailand; (d) I have recently watched Pop Aye – a road movie took place in Thailand by a Singaporean film maker, and loved it.

I did enjoy it though it did not shake me up like Untitled. For me, its main merits lie in capturing the glimpses of the country from south to north, without many spoken words. It took years to make, covering the entire railway network across the country. These days, I have great admiration for work made with great patience.

It made me wonder how interesting it would be for a film maker to document Singapore in similar manner – via journeys on MRT across the island.

 

The Dreamed Path

CN decided against staying for this one. AT decided to join me.

Like Autumn, Autumn, this was also consists of stories about two protagonists. It has such unconventional, refreshing way of informing audience about the emotional states of the characters … by landing cameras on the reactions of people surrounding the protagonists instead of the later.   I was truly engaged in the first protagonist’s journey. Somehow the camera language did not develop further enough in the second half for me.

AT and I went for supper after the show. AT looked at this one from a D.H.Lawrence-ial  points of view. That was intriguing to me. I was looking at it purely from a rather restraint story telling technique.

 

So that was the day when I watched four movies. Thanks S.I.F.A 2017!

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独立时代

连续两个周末观赏了两出独立制作的本土中文剧。

11月26日 - Body X

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没赶上2014年的第一个版本,所以这次观戏体验非常新鲜。除了开场和结尾时让所有的角色齐聚一堂外,其他时候观众必须决定要到旧国会大厦的哪个角落窃听各别角色的对话或告白,最后再尝试和其他观众交换情报心得,以便对谁是凶手各下结论。

周围急促的脚步声和窃窃私语,观众的投入显然是非常大。如何对身边纷纷攘攘的观众视若无睹,专注在角色的揣摩,对演员的挑战应该是非常大。

从脸书上的宣传短片,到演出场所的服饰和道具,看出制作团队的用心。相对于令人炫目的造型和海报,角色情感的投射幅度似乎还有加大挖深的空间。

我并没有测中最终的谜底。在所获得有限的线索中,我自己建构了为什么场务是凶手的理由。这是我作为这出戏的观众所获得的乐趣。

如果还有下一个版本,制作团队会不会希望观众得到不一样的收获呢?

 

12月4日 - 妈妈的箱子

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第一次听说宝玲要尝试《妈妈的箱子》,就不停地问什么时候开始售票。原本因商务而会错过演出,却幸运地在演出最后一场等到一张退票。

宝玲是一位很努力、扎实的演员。对于她通过独立制作来首次尝试独角戏的决定,非常佩服。

《妈妈的箱子》剧本捕捉了消逝年代的家族关系,通过洋葱皮般的层层开剖,让各个人物的情感一句台词接一句台词地渗入观众的感知和泪腺。这个剧本数度的上演曾造就了本土令人难忘的演员。

独自在不同空间和语言之间游走,舞台上的宝玲是亮眼的。但重写实风格的舞台设计与道具,和一些台位设计流露出的人工痕迹,抑制了我对角色所可能产生的共鸣。戏终时,站在掏空后的妈妈的箱子旁,女儿的心房还是半遮半掩。

 

独立制作

以独立制作形式为观众带来本土全职剧团制作方针以外的观戏体验,能不能形成一种可持续性的选择呢?但愿这两个制作卖得满堂红,宣告了剧场与观众之间一种新的约定。

Beasts Within Us

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Part I

I instinctively told myself he was not Oliver when I spotted him as I stepped inside the wooden hut constructed just outside of Marina Bay Sand’s main entrance. He was, in that moment and space, an actor performing a role in this durational performance in SIFA 2016 entitled Time Between Us.

I walked around the hut before entering it. Its wooden wall was chalk-scribbled words that I later found out to be part of texts by Fernando Rubio – the Argentine artist who created this piece with Oliver. I peeked through the windows of the hut and saw some people inside the hut. I walked in and saw Oliver (who was not Oliver) and some other random people. There were more chalk scribbles inside the hut, a bed, benches and some photographs pinned to the wall. Oliver (who was not Oliver) moved about in the hut quietly. So were the others. I sat down on the bench intending to soak in the ambience but a lady took out her phone and placed it inches from my shoulder to take a photo of the chalk scribble behind me. She was oblivious to my discomfort of such closeness and stayed there for quite a while trying to secure the best picture she could take with her phone camera. She finally moved away and I managed to sit there watching people outside the hut looking into the hut on me, Oliver (who was not Oliver) and other random people. It was not long before Oliver (who was not Oliver) walked to the door and said to everyone: thank you, while pointing towards the outdoor. We stood up and left the hut. End of Part I.

Part II

Oliver (who was not Oliver) shut the door behind us. I looked up the performance schedule and learnt that there would be a conversation between Oliver (who was not Oliver) and Natalie Hennedige – Artistic Director of Cake Theatrical Production, in 30 minutes time. At some point I ran into Oliver’s wife, PS, who told me there were still tickets available at the door for the conversation. I bought one and was brought into the hut again when the time arrived.

Hennedige came in with a small suitcase after all audience took our seats. She sat in front of Oliver (who was not Oliver) and started by explaining her plan to work with Oliver using some props she brought with her and some characters she prepared, as well as her usual process of working with actors. It might have been a minute or so into her explanation when Oliver (who was not Oliver) abruptly asked: who are you talking to? Hennedige looked surprised but swiftly pointed to a scribble on the wall which wrote: Oliver Chong. That moment seemed to reveal a mismatch between whom Hennedige was expecting to meet (actor Oliver Chong) vs who was in that moment (Oliver, who was not Oliver). It set me wondering what was the brief given to both. Subsequently, this session did not go smoothly, to neither party nor this audience. Hennedige tried hard to convince Oliver (who was not Oliver) to proceed with some actions/texts she prepared for her characters. Oliver (who was not Oliver) seemed to struggle for quite a while before deciding to go along with Hennedige’s instructions. Even then, he was merely executing the instructions in near robotic manners. Props which Hennedige prepared included a wig, a piece of clean white under-pant, a red lipstick which she used to write ‘Save Me’ on Oliver’s (who was not Oliver) body after he took off his t-shirt on her instruction, as well as a small container of ping pong balls in various colours. I remembered her characters and texts were related to topic of suicide. It was apparent to me that Hennedige was planning to have a ‘conversation’ with actor Oliver, but instead getting Oliver (who was not Oliver) responding to her characters.

Finally a series of quick knocks heard on the door. That was the cue for Hennedige to pick up her suitcase (which she packed in all the props she brought) and stood to leave. She turned before exiting to say: Good Luck to Oliver (who was not Oliver). She said something further to the effect that she thought it was great Oliver was doing this performance but she doubted she herself would be able to stay in this hut for five days without turning suicidal. End of part II.

Part III

Oliver (who was not Oliver) shut the door behind us. I looked up the performance schedule and learnt that there would be a performance on texts by Fernando Rubio. I bought a ticket and waited for the daily light show on Marina Bay to be over before being let into the hut again.

After audience took the seats, Oliver (who was not Oliver) grabbed a camera hung on the wall and took a picture of a random audience. He pulled out the instant photo and pinned it onto the wall. He took a chalk and scribbled more texts onto the walls, before starting his verbal delivery. According to the performance introduction material:

He tells a story reflecting upon the place where he once belonged, the different ways to leave it behind and observe it, the passing of time and events, and the transformations that may be possible. 

It was not an easy text to digest, as it was not a linear narrative. The text was poetic, and not entirely conversational. Some transcript of the text can be found in Ng Yi-Sheng’s blog here.

While the text was rather non-Oliver, the delivery was. The way he broke the sentences. Crisp. Matter-of-fact-ly. Made me stayed alert to try catching every word. Not always successful. I was seeing both actor Oliver and Oliver (who was not Oliver) in the space. It reminded me what Hennedige said during her conversation session earlier, in her attempt to persuade Oliver (who was not Oliver) to go along with her plan, that an actor will always carry a part of themselves on stage no matter what characters they are playing.

Hmmm.

Yet there was an unfamiliar depth/range of emotions which I didn’t remember seeing in Oliver’s past performances. Not fully grounded yet, but refreshing. At one point in the text, he walked to me and placed his hand on my shoulder and said: I’m alright. In that split second, I was debating if I should respond as a friend of actor Oliver or an audience of Oliver (who was not Oliver). I decided on the later and looked back to him quietly.

He continued and increasingly emotional. At some point, he wept. He had that familiar controlled craft of actor Oliver while also moments of letting go. Moments of unleashing a beast within him. Moments.

What triggered that? The text? The space? The duration? The watching of people inside and outside of the hut for 5 days?

The storytelling ended when Oliver (who was not Oliver) opened the door and sent us all outside. He reappeared on top of the hut and shouted to us: It doesn’t end here!

End of Part III.

Epilogue

There was a huge crowd outside of the hut catching Pokemon throughout my visit to the performance. I managed to catch three new Pokemon for my collection while waiting to enter the hut for the performance. It was the first time I witness the size of mass gathering lured by Pokemon Go. As I wormed through the crowd with faces lit up by their mobile phone, I wondered what sort of beasts were hidden inside them.

PS. The following song was played by Oliver (who was not Oliver) on his laptop during his storytelling session.

While We Shed Our Skin …

 

In the span of 48 hours within a week, I attended two performances on ‘euthanasia’ (Wikipedia: Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering). The haunting Ibsen:Ghosts by Markus&Markus in this S.I.F.A 2016 had tracing the journey of euthanasia of an individual human life. The meditative IgnorLAND of its Loss by Drama Box had me and other individuals tracing the journey of euthanasia of a residential estate.

Living on an island nicknamed as ‘little red dot’ could easily make one generalises that everyone here share identical living environments. Drama Box’s IgnorLAND series provide apt reminders that despite its petite size, this island mirrors global trend of great divides among its residents beyond visible borders or walls.

While the past installations of IgnorLAND zoomed into communities still existing (Geylang, Bukit Ho Swee) or historic (Nanyang University), IgnorLAND Of Its Loss took us for the first time to one that is in the process of vanishing – Dakota Crescent, whose residents live in rented public housing properties built in 1950s.

Not only were the audience got to wander through the gradually deserted neighbourhood of old-school architecture, the engagement of the residents (instead of artists) to deliver several segments of guided tours gave the experience a texture of living cells instead of fossils.

An old man played ‘tok tok’ as timekeeper for audience to move from one tour station to the next. An old lady pushed a shopping cart around in a short play. A young lady shared photos she took in her neighbourhood over the years. A man guided tour inside the community service centre, sharing activities organized for the elderly residents and incidents of their daily lives. Even incidental peeping of other residents passing by as well as music spilling out from living room of some apartment units provided feel of a pulsating heart to this audience.

All these are scheduled to vanish come end of 2016. Residents would be relocated and buildings torn down, probably making way for new and more densely populated residential properties offering riverside living and commanding higher economic value. The aging buildings are becoming less and less competent in supporting needs of the aging residents (with frequent lifts failure and their spare parts of old model having to be shipped from abroad). It is year 2016 and Singapore is still blessed with a highly effective and efficient government, who not only ensure that the residents would be relocated to public housing with newer infrastructure but also ensuring the streets of Dakota Crescent remained impeccably clean and well-lit as the dwellers have started vacating.

In Ibsen:Ghosts by Markus&Markus, Margot who lived the last decade of her life with great physical pains and solitude, signed up for euthanasia before she became too dependent and inconvenient to others. During the final weeks leading up to the appointment, members of Markus&Markus visited her everyday to document the preparations she/they put together. At one point, Margot joked that if there were people visiting her so frequently, she might reverse her decision on euthanasia.

If more people have frequented Dakota Crescent, would the decision on its future be different? How did it get forgotten initially? Has it fulfilled its mission and no longer serving any purposes? Could it be given new meaningful mission? Would it still worth preserving under the new mission? Is this an ideal neighbourhood renewal process? Just like how living things shed the layer of skin that used to protect them but lost its function after prolonged weathering? What do we grow in our new skin?

Life of a person (e.g. Margot) or community (e.g. Dakota Crescent) can vanish from the surface of the earth and merely be accepted as law of nature. Or we can ask questions. Questions such as:- Are we Margot? Are we Dakota Crescent? Have we become Margot and Dakota Crescent? Have we made someone around us Margot and Dakota Crescent? What are our relationship with our Margot and Dakota Crescent?

Sometime, a production such as IgnorLAND of its Loss make you think of those questions.

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Parallel Universe of WTFs

A dream world where logic and reason do not exist.
Moral-less, rule-less, borderless and timeless.
Intrusions summoned, intrusions uninvited.
A collective journey, alone.

That’s the synopsis of Intrusions.

In the real world where as members of human species sharing a single, increasingly crowded planet with other members, we are conditioned to behave based on logic and reasons with each other to avoid the world plunging into self-destruction (e.g. don’t kill others, don’t litter, don’t make killer litters, etc). Or so we have been taught.

But in the real world, the logic and reasons vary from INDIVIDUAL to INDIVIDUAL. On my way to work one morning, the crammed train I managed to squeeze myself in had a sudden brake. Every standing passengers bumped into each other while trying to find our balance. I apologised to the lady next to me after our shoulders briefly touched in the course of our re-balancing acts, and was stunned to see daggers flying out of her eyes. I was certain I would have been dead then if she happen to have a spear in her hand. It was one of those WTF moments in our daily lives. From my point of view, as well as the lady’s.

So often these WTF feelings we have against each other originate from our logic and reasons. Living in this era, I find myself bombarded by these WTF feelings everyday on the social media. There seems to be no running away from them except when I am asleep, or even dreaming.

Or inside a theatre. A space safe enough for creators and viewers to share anything, if we allow ourselves to. More often than not, we still construct a journey communicating logics and reasons. But every now and then comes a piece of work like Intrusions which does not. So wouldn’t that be a solace for us the immortals, regardless of how momentarily it was? Watching how Joavien lifted a chair with her hair and how Jean’s heartfelt confession got interrupted by a plant, made me go WTF after WTF as my logic and reasons were challenged and discarded along the way. At the end of the show, this audience find himself  less burdened as if he had shed some skins.

And I imagine it a tumultuous process to create a piece of work which defies logic and reasons that still succeeds in engaging the audience. It actually requires great logic and reasons. And honesty. So, thank you to Jean and Joavien for the invite to intrusions into your dreams. I can now think of more important and useful question such as how do ghosts in Portugal look like.

 

 

此岛此刻

IMG_2552很多事情只能等待时间洪流的经过,才浮现它发生的意义。

就如此刻。

此刻,指的是本地6个主要以中文进行演出的戏剧团体(戏剧盒、实践、Toy肥料厂、猴纸、十指帮和九年)于2016年1月30日假Centre 42宣布成立‘新华剧体’联盟的消息发布会。

据说当发布会的消息在文徳的脸书出现后就被急速抢空,显然是个颇令人关注的事件。出席者包括活跃中文剧场的老、中、青人物,和剧场观众(国内外、新移民)。

思仁为发布会做总结时将此刻从历史角度对比了80年代本地中文剧场跨团体合作,先后呈现了大型联合演出《小白船》、《乌拉世界》和《糕呸店》。当年的新加坡艺术节在定位开始关注本土作品时,却面临因早年政治决策开始被边缘化的中文剧场而出现低潮窘境,方促成了剧场联盟的组成。时隔多年,此刻的6个戏剧团体都能(已经)独立呈现具水平制作,那组成联盟的迫切性在哪里呢?

中文水平的(持续)滑落,造成观众人数(持续)低迷,新创作数量有限。

掌控演出资源的机构有(看似)侧重英语剧场观众群的倾向(发布会上引用去年滨海艺术中心欢庆建国50周年回顾本土剧场的委托制作,在英语剧场和中文剧场制作上所投入资源的差异)。

新移民在本土中文剧场的((仍然)缺乏、不能)融入。

乃至新加坡是否只需要新加坡剧场而非新加坡‘中文’剧场?(同意燊杰所说,如果没有了中文剧场、马来剧场和淡米尔剧场,新加坡就不是多元文化了。)

这些都不是发布会前一天才突然涌现的局面,而是日复一日、年复一年地在私底下被讨论着的感受。此刻被拉出台面,是因为已经到了临界点了吗?

在瞬息万变的世界,没有一个(商业、文化、政治)组织不是无时无刻都在面对挑战自身存在价值和意义的。新华剧体不一定能为本土中文剧场面临的每一个挑战找到出路,但也许可以像发布会一样创造一个经验分享、面对课题的公开平台,让更多人参与本土中文剧场的对话和塑造。

此刻如是想。

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When Was The Last Time You Listened To Melting Ice

IMG_0171Never?

I did that twice last week.

I didn’t think I was going to hear anything. It was quiet most of the time, except for sound of people moving around. Then occasionally, a splutter sliced through the dimly lit theatre.

Oh yes, we were sitting inside a theatre listening to melting ice. Hydro microphones were frozen inside 6 blocks of ice, picking up sound of air pockets as they were released as the ice melted. Another block of ice with hydro microphone was placed outdoor to pick up street sound and transmitted back into the theatre.

In For The Time Being, Darren created two worlds.

There was a world outside the theatre. Another inside.

In the world outside the theatre, lives as we knew were going on.

In the world inside the theatre, ice as the audience knew were melting away.IMG_0173

Both worlds were running in parallel.

Both man made.

Which was more artificial ? More illusionary? More mundane? More banal?

The deafening silence of the world inside, or the muted voices of the world outside?

Both worlds were opposite and yet similar. Walked through a door and you would be in the other world. So easy.

Did it matter to the world outside that ice were melting in the other world?

Did it matter to the world inside that desires were boiling in the other world?

What matters truly mattered?

IMG_0153The ice were not there to provide any answers. Nor raise these questions.

The ice were there to melt. And they melted.

I was there to listen to the melting ice. And I heard them melted. That was that.

No words. No action. No pause. No rhythm. No movement. No expression. No meaning. No purpose. No nothing.

Just a true moment of invisibility.