Reviewer: Walter Chan
Performance: 14 April 2016
A family melodrama that is more drama than mellow
There’s something very grating about having a moral lesson preached to you again and again for over an hour. One, I got it the first time round. Two, what’s the point of repeating it ad infinitum? And three, just. Let. It. Go. Already.
The Finger Players return for their 2016 season with another round of their director mentorship project, Watch This Space. Under the guidance of Chong Tze Chien, the two-year programme culminates in the mentees directing a show on their own. To put it nicely, it cultivates rising talent in the local theatre scene. To put it bluntly, this might be little more than just an experimental sandbox with the motto: “It’s OK to fail.
But let’s get on to the show itself. Inheritance tells a tale about the love-hate relationship between two sisters and their mother. Girl loves Sister, but both she and Mother hate Sister’s female lover for being a threat to Sister’s marriage to her husband. Meanwhile, Girl loves Mother but Sister hates Mother for not reciprocating Girl’s love for her. Oh, and there is a recurring cat (Kuo Pao Kun, anyone?) to reinforce the idea of Girl’s child-like innocence and naïveté.
While the effort to portray an exclusive feminine domesticity is laudable, the most jarring disjuncture in the entire show is the clash between the script and the artistic direction. The internal emotional conflict within lines like “Ma can help you cut hair… be a good student… you want Ma to commit suicide ah?” is lost, with the rather puzzling directorial decision to play up a one-dimensional aggressiveness that verges on the psychotic instead.
Now I’m not saying that the script and the direction are bad. Far from it. Playwright Ellison Yuyang Tan and director Zelda Tatiana Ng both possess very strong and unique voices. Tan has a talent for depicting the quotidian with a simmering intensity, while Ng’s inspired use of discordant imagery creates a visually arresting milieu. The problem, then, is that these two strong individual voices are singing completely different tunes, which is akin to painting an impressionist piece in the style of Picasso.
The result is an extremely tiresome affair. Not only does the audience have to suffer through the constant fighting between characters, we also have to endure the conflict between the playwright’s words and the director’s heavy-handedness. What we eventually get is the same moral lesson repeatedly delivered to us in different ways: Ma is bad because of this, the sisters are bad because of that, blah blah. As if the moralistic good/bad dichotomy isn’t bad enough, we also see too much of the bad over the good.
I guess the main lesson Inheritance teaches us is that one should always start from the basics—script and direction should share the same vision.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
INHERITANCE by The Finger Players
14 – 16 April 2016
Drama Centre Black Box
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Walter Chan has recently starting dabbling in play-writing, most usually writing for fun, but hopes to develop his hobby into something more substantial in the future.