Reviewer: Jeremiah Choy
Performance: 21 January 2016
There is much love in the air when we enter into Centre 42 for the performance of Bi(Cara). Apart from the usual niceties that we are bestowed upon collecting our tickets; the advice that it is only an hour performance but there would be no toilet break; and we are gently prodded to join the mailing list, we are asked to dip into a basket of flowers and perhaps think of a wish.
The casualness of the front of house continues into the theatre space where the performer mingles gracefully amongst the audience, talking to us, extracting wishes and collecting the flowers.
We are definitely invited and drawn into the world of Sharda Harrison at the word go.
So effortless is the engagement that we are quickly brought into the fact this is a piece based on Bernard Harrison’s (yes, its her father) talk which questions “the ethics of man in the ways we treat animals as meat for consumption, entertainment and commodity.”
Casual banter turns into intensive physical work as the stories within the stories start to unfold. We are suddenly confronted with multiple characters played by Sharda (to great aplomb) – a cat lover who discriminates against the prostitutes who live down the street, an orang utan zookeeper who has to confront his inner demons on violence and abuse, yet he is so gentle and tender to the animals he looks after, and Sharda (as herself) as she confronts herself.
With great mastery of her body and her voice, Sharda brings the audience through issues that seem pedantic on the surface but seep into our consciousness and conscience in an unassuming way.
Physicality, a very important aspect of physical work, is always present. From the body-bent road sweeper/cat lover, to the gruff and heavyset zookeeper; from the trembling abused wife to her agile self , Sharda transforms effortlessly into these beings between each conversation/monologue.
The highlight of this is surely the dialogue between the zookeeper and his wife (who had wanted to leave him for not loving her more). With a simple removal of one glove to signify the wife and the remaining gloved hand to signify the zookeeper, the conversation between husband and wife is tensed and tension-filled. It is almost like watching a schizophrenic patient debating within herself and fighting desperately for her own sanity. The psychological violence is more than the physical portrayal.
Throughout the duration of the 60-minute performance, we are brought on a journey of self-reflection over the hypocrisy of what we believe. It is also a journey of self-realisation and a journey of self-realignment.
The combination of provocative visual images by Sean Harrison (yes, her brother) and evocative sound from Mei Yin Lim support the happenings on stage. The writing is tight and the set is effective.
One small jarring moment is when Sean comes on stage in black tee shirt and shorts. It is jarring because everything else in the production seems so intended and purposeful. The incongruity of his presence seems incompatible with the overall design.
Whatever perspective that we, the audience, take from this thoughtful and thought-provoking production, it is evident that in the end, there is much love in the room. This is a production that should travel – if only to spread the love around.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
BI(CARA) by Pink Gajah Theatre
21 – 24 January 2016
Black Box, Centre 42
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Jeremiah Choy is a trained lawyer who went full time into the arts in 1997. He believes that theatre is a place where one can suspend (even for a short while) reality through myth, mystery and magic making. While not directing, curating or producing a show, he enjoys penning his thoughts through Jereisms and Jeresop Fables.