Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review: 'She Ain't Heavy, She's Reaching Into Space' by TheatreWorks

She Ain't Heavy, She's Reaching Into Space
by TheatreWorks

Conceived and performed by Eng Kai-Er and Faye Lim
28 to 29 July 2016 at 72-13
Reviewed by Alvin Koh Ming-Chuen

I wish I am not reviewing this show although I am dying to put down my thoughts! Not because this show is bad or good, not because of any other reasons except that I wish more humans have a chance to watch or re-watch it. Read on and you might understand why I used the word 'humans'.

The comprehensively write-up and Q and A provided by TheatreWorks and the performers, Kai and Faye, aptly describe the processes and their aims and so I will not say anything overtly overlapping.

What rocks in the piece seems to be the unexpected element in the 'what I can expect from Kai-Er's work',( since she is widely known as an unconventional performer in dance and other genres or hybrid-gneres.)

One would not expect the two performers to be warming up in the beginning of the the show, discussing which one of the two segments to present and asking the members of the audience which one they prefer with a show of hands is not what one would expect in the main show but rather in a Q and A session!

But, wait. As I have mentioned , knowing Kai, I should not have been surprised but I was. 'Stunned' is a better word.

Also, declaring with utterly sincerity that they are "not trained" is not really something two thespians would usually do unless it is part of the script.(is it?!) This, together with other self deprecating remarks, seems honest and unscripted but bizarre and somehow disturbing in the beginning.

In an original musical segment, Kai and Faye affectionately performed something that is reminiscent of a children's musical. Done deliberately cheesy or not, I really cannot tell. What I can I say is that it is entertaining and the overtly didactic ending is indeed expectedly unexpected or the other way round.

The conflict and uncertainties, in what seemed to be a mundane conversation between the two protagonists as they inch deliberately closer to us audience, signifies the next movement of the piece as they start to address the audience intimately, standing very close to us, especially the first row, blurring the actor/audience boundary as the mike and speaker is turned off. Although Kai and Faye's volume diminishes greatly, it adds that element of preciousness as we strained our ears to try to get what they are saying, while they start to inch away from each other, addressing the opposite ends of the audience in a continum, asking us, including two children, questions, which is congruent with the democratic theme of being human and inclusiveness of the audience and their speeches and opinions as part of this piece, brought up in the 'discussion'. As one member of the audience aptly commented , the "discrepancy" between the viewer and actor is blurred.

Altogether, She Ain't Heavy, She's Reaching Into Space asks questions rather than provide answers, opens cans of worms, challenges the concept of what a performance is or who the performers are and draws upon casual dialogue and Q and A motifs to create or rather, deconstruct a well established theatre space. Or perhaps it is not that established?

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