“Labour of Love”
Reviewer: Casidhe Ng
Performance: 10 August 2017
Mother I (2) begins with a trio of performers engaging in movement sequences related to motherhood. Writer/director Kalaiselvi Grace bears a great weight upon her back, fellow actor Hilmi Shukor interacts lovingly with a child while Catherine Ho mimics the occasional breastfeeding. The entire preshow sequence works particularly well, indicating the trio’s strength in physical work. Unfortunately as the work progresses, the production is encumbered by the weaknesses of its texts.
The audience is first introduced to a single father (Shukor) raising five children, a mother with two (Ho) and one with an only child (Grace). They banter as housewives usually do, playing a game of one-upmanship about tuition fees, stress, and Singapore’s academic system, yet the subsequent scenes involving these three characters rarely venture beyond that.
Littered between these scenes are monologues with captions ranging from “priorities” to “separation” and “cell”, depicting various mothers facing challenges in motherhood. These vignettes hit certain emotional notes: Shukor portrays a mother who readily accepts his children for their homosexuality, while Grace attempts to bring a wayward son back on track through religion.
For the most part, this fragmentary structure involving the trio taking turns to portray mothers has limited success. This is in part due to the performances that show little variation across the board. By attempting to present multiple accounts of motherhood from mothers in different situations, Grace detracts from the overall depth and potential of each story.
On the other hand, her direction in the physical yields greater dramatic effect. In a particularly striking scene Grace and Shukor depict a mother and her ill child to a background of Ho’s narration, capturing a heart-wrenching moment as the child passes away in great pain. Whilst in arguably the best segment of the work, we are treated to multiple snapshots of mother-child interactions. Within these short three-second vignettes we hear familiar sayings like “I bought your milk, bought your diapers, gave birth to you” and “just one more, just one more” during a selfie-session that leads to the children leaving in annoyance.
Altogether, Mother I (2) has its moments, and it is evident that the cast’s strength lies in physical work. It is disappointing because this is an example of proficient work hampered by less-than-supportive text. This piece gives us a mere glimpse of the untapped potential Ver Theatre has to offer. Nevertheless, the work, flawed though it may be, is undeniably a labor of love, and ultimately deserves our support and contribution.
I for one certainly hope to see more from them.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
MOTHER I (2) by Ver Theatre
10 – 13 August 2017
Goodman Arts Centre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Casidhe Ng is currently serving the nation but takes time out of his civilian hours for theatre.