“In Search of Salt”
Reviewer: Meera Nair
Performance: 16 December 2016
An intense story and evocative acting pretty much sums up what In Search of Salt. Playwright Sarah Howell pens a tale of loss, denial, sisterly love and friendship complicated by social media. Protagonist Gaya receives a Facebook message from her sister Sel a few months after the latter’s death. While this appears to be the start of a whodunnit-style mystery, the play unfolds to become Gaya’s search for closure.
Actors Allison Wong (as Gaya), Ranice Tay (as Sel’s friend Stephanie) and Susie Penrice Tyrie (as Gaya and Sel’s mother) are very expressive actors. It is their ability to hold our attention as they struggle with Sel’s death that makes the play so heart-wrenching. Clad in black, moving within a space where the general colour palette is largely monochromatic, they enact the various stages of grief: denial, guilt and/or acceptance. Videos of happy times between Sel and Gaya, shot shakily on a mobile camera, are projected in colour, creating a contrast between the mood and the historical separations.
Allison Wong’s transition from denial and guilt and to acceptance is particularly moving. She paces her performance well, allowing us to feel the depth of her emotions at every stage of the story.
The theatre space is configured as a theatre-in-the-round, where the actors are surrounded by the audience. As the audience, we also become participants of the story, as we see not just the actors, but each other. This form of staging is particularly fitting, given that the topic of death is intimate and personal. The actors become caged in by the audience, reminiscent of how they are trapped emotionally after the death of Sel.
In Search of Salt was written to pass the Bechdel test, and features an all-women cast, with a woman at its helm. It will be interesting to see what Passerby Projects will present next, considering that this is their second production after LEAVES, another emotionally-charged, family-oriented production earlier this year.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
IN SEARCH OF SALT by Passerby Projects
16 – 17 December 2016
Centre 42 Black Box