“Off Centre hits the bull’s eye”
Reviewer: Sam Kee
Performance: 25 April 2015, 3pm
Faith Ng’s 2015 offering, Normal discusses stereotypes within our education system and what it means to be ‘normal’. Conversely, in Off Centre, written by Haresh Sharma, we see how director Oliver Chong envisages what it means to be different.
Siti Khalijah as Saloma and Ebi Shankara as Vinod skilfully slip in and out of their characters and doubling as narrators. This Brechtian split offers the audience some distance from which to observe and engage the two protagonists. Having said that, the distancing is not done at the expense of empathy. The two actors’ performances connected with the audience also on a concurrent emotional level. The many splinter narratives in the play are well dispersed, introducing peripheral characters strategically without distracting too much from the main characters. The audience attention is primarily focused on Saloma and Vinod.
Oliver Chong’s use of masks and the ensemble cast help depict the inner worlds of the protagonists. These intricately sculpted masks give a larger-than-life presentations of the main characters’ mental states. At certain points, these masked mascots parallel Vinod’s emotional triggers, amplifying the difficulties and dilemmas he faces on a daily basis. In my opinion, the masks are strangely reminiscent of some Robert Wilson’s characters in Peter Pan, but with slightly different impacts and effects.
The story progresses with Saloma’s becoming stronger and Vinod descending into madness. While the play began with Vinod’s solitary presence on stage addressing the audience directly, Saloma is the only one left on stage at the end of the play. She completes Vinod’s story for him, telling the audience that he is a free bird now (instead of the statue that Vinod has promised to be for Saloma’s sake). This juxtaposition of Saloma’s acceptance of her condition against Vinod’s denial gave the audience much food for thought. Oliver Chong’s Off Centre manages to hit closer to home than expected, given that most of us are probably unfamiliar with the ‘off-centredness’ discussed in the play.
The lingering question remains: Are we really that different?
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
OFF CENTRE by Esplanade’s The Studios: fifty
23- 26 April 2015
Esplanade Theatre Studio
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Sam Kee is currently helming the literary and visual arts section at artsrepublic.sg while putting her major in Mathematics to good use at an educational publishing house.