SIMPLICITY by Intercultural Theatre Institute

“Discipline and Diversity”

Reviewer: Beverly Yuen
Performance: 19 March 2016

Simplicity, created by Argentine director Guillermo Angelelli and ITI 2016 graduating cohort of seven students, is a highly disciplined work based on a poem of the same title by Jorge Luis Borges.

The graduating cohort comprises students from Brazil, Hong Kong, India and Singapore. Drawing songs and tales from their own culture, they reflect and construct segments based on the text of the poem.  The performers seem to have mapped their experiences onto the poem instead of being led by it. This makes the interpretation a dynamic and lively one to watch.

The piece opens with shadows cast on the faces of the actors with a huge prominent lantern centre stage, and the question of “to be or not to be?” is posed. This is enhanced by varied tones of breath sounds, dialects and languages. The sound of “dong” emits a disturbing yet ethereal sound which evokes mystery and suspense. With the other structures resembling tombstones—designed by Chris Chua—to complete the picture, the piece seems to hint at a journey of exploration through the passage of life and death.

Throughout the performance, the actions are highly structured and precise, and at the same time alive. None of the action is accidental as every move is carefully planned and dynamically executed according to a certain rhythm. Additionally, the voice work is superb. Sounds of voices, songs, and breath provide a rich sustenance to the performance. At times, the resonances of the voice work hit me right into my heart; at other times, the sounds are so subtle and yet haunting that I cannot identify the maker of the sound.

If this piece is to be viewed from the perspective of the actors’ training, it gains my utmost respect and admiration for the commitment an actor devotes to one’s craft. The actor has to drop his/her ego and contribute as a small and yet essential part to this highly cohesive ensemble piece.

However, if I do not take the background of the creators and the context of the work into consideration, I may find some incoherent segments and the lack of climax disturbing. At the same time, I am not seeking for a “storyline”, but rather, a journey that could eventually bring me to a destination. For instance, I may listen to a piece of drumming without a storyline and be brought on a voyage which arrives at an anchorage.

Despite all that, this ephemeral piece could be a representation of life too. While we do wish for an apex or a closure in our life, events of life do not appear in that way all the time. Life is unexpected and the only constant in life is impermanence. Thus, this piece could be a much truer reflection of the reality of life than any other well-made plays. No matter what you may think of this performance, it is definitely one that compels endless contemplation, introspection, and discussion.

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SIMPLICITY by Intercultural Theatre Institute
17  – 19 March 2016
Drama Centre Black Box


Beverly Yuen is an arts practitioner, and co-/founder of Theatre OX and In Source Theatre. She keeps a blog at