“Size does not matter”
Reviewer: Jeremiah Choy
Performance: 11 November 2016
Touted as a platform for three generations of theatre practitioners (Desmond Sim, Jeffrey Tan and Hang Qian Chou), Shrimps In Space has a revival this November under the guiding hands of GenerAsia’s Richard Tan (yet another generation).
The story itself (the growing pangs of a scrawny boy in the myriad of issues surrounding friendship, love and loss) mirrors the history of monologues in Singapore.
There was a time in Singapore where monologues rule theatre scene. Lean, mean, intimate and intimidating, the one-actor shows has delighted large audiences in the late 80s and 90s. In epic monologues like Emily of Emerald Hill, Lest the Demons Get to Me, The Coffin Is Too Big For The Hole, just to name a few. These lone voices provide commentaries on society: the public and the personal.
As a monologue, Shrimps in Space does not disappoint. The audience goes on a roller coaster ride with Huat Bee/Hay Bee and Hin Kong/King Kong (played nimbly but not without flaws by Qian Chou). What is refreshing is that Sim’s quest into the story of growing up is not only about Hay Bee but it is also as much about King Kong, his best friend forever.
At first, I question the casting by director Jeffrey Tan – as a truly scrawny actor may more suitably play Hay Bee. But as the script unfolds, size does not really matter.
It is the metamorphosis of Hay Bee and King Kong in my mind that really counts. And Qian Chou creates the space for me to do so. The image of a once hunky ape-man King Kong dying driveled and bone thin in the arms of the big-hearted (and now larger than life) Hay Bee is powerful and moving.
Director Tan’s vision of staying true to the timeline of the script brings back good memories of the ’80s and the ’90s. For those who lived through that period of disco, school functions and tea parties, it is pure nostalgia.
However, one questions the relevance of Sim’s script today. Perhaps, a more up to date staging can bring in more (younger) audience to this production?
I am left also wondering: Does size matters really matters in theatre? There have not been any new noteworthy monologues (writing or staging) of late. Do we (the audience) only want to see the big sized King Kong and shun the skinny Hay Bee on stage?
There is something about lean mean productions that we often overlook. It provides a platform for art makers to find their voice. It is both intimate and intimidating for the audience. But that is why we go to the theatre. To be engaged.
So does size really matter?
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
SHRIMPS IN SPACE by GenerAsia Limited
10 – 13 November 2016
SOTA Studio Theatre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Jeremiah Choy is a trained lawyer who went full time into the arts in 1997. He believes that theatre is a place where one can suspend (even for a short while) reality through myth, mystery and magic making. While not directing, curating or producing a show, he enjoys penning his thoughts through Jereisms and Jeresop Fables.