Reviewer: Jorah Yu
Performance: 8 December 2016
From the synopsis, I had thought it was going to be one of those deep, philosophical, contemporary plays that I would once again fail to understand after more than an hour of trying not to fall asleep.
Refuge is about a man and his wife and three children running away from war, the world as they know taking a steep plunge to hell, crashing and burning in the most glorious, shock-inducing way, written and performed by Pavan J Singh. Braham tells his story with minimalist props and a lot of heart, with clever uses of stage directions to fully utilize the tiny, but personal space.
The set-up is simple – colourful luggage, photo frames, clothes, a desk, chairs litter the stage. Low budget. One of the things I first notice is a straight row of several varying hats on the floor, later used as a way for the actor to switch between multiple personalities.
Pavan plays a convincing number of characters across the entire duration of the play, from the refugee running away from everything he has known to the portrayal of his father, his children, his wife, the ship captain that kills her and the French ambassador who turns Braham away. Pavan plays them by investing personal emotions and great intensity. This is impressive considering how Pavan is constantly changing characters in between consecutive dialogues.
The play gives a lot without forcing itself on anyone (God bless). Unlike many predecessors that attempt to send some fundamentally deep message home, it does not smack anyone across the face with some all-important manifesto about social justice. Instead, it humanizes the story and gives a face to the refugees that encounter such problems every day all over the world, aiming to show that in relatable way as Braham endures the unimaginable to make it to a safe haven, giving younger, more privileged people more to think, about whether they would accept refugees into their own lands should the situation ever arise, raising a question that few of us living in Singapore would otherwise ever ask ourselves given our comfortable status as a first world country that enjoys great economical success.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
RFUGE by Skinned Knee Productions
7 – 10 December 2016
Goodman Arts Centre Black Box Theatre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Jorah Yu is currently pursuing a Diploma in Technical and Production Management at Lasalle College of The Arts, and is an avid lover of Theatre, Life, Travels and Food.