“The Orange Production”
Reviewer: Jocelyn Chng
Performance: 11 August 2017
In conjunction with its 30th anniversary this year, The Necessary Stage created The Orange Production to showcase new, smaller works. Drip and Whale Fall are the first two plays to be presented under this platform.
Drip, written by Nabilah Said, discusses the relationship between a Malay Muslim man, Azam, and a Chinese woman, Xiaoyan, who has converted to Islam. This appears to be a hot topic, what with Channel NewsAsia broadcasting interviews with interracial couples in the past year or two; and Without Reason, staged at this year’s M1 Peer Pleasure Youth Theatre Festival, which deals with the same issue.
What sets Drip apart is that it does not harp solely on the particularities or difficulties of being an interracial couple. It engages with wider issues to do with religion, such as beliefs that lead to disagreements between a conservative mother and her two children, a son who drinks and a daughter who smokes and cohabits with her boyfriend.
However, Drip is undermined by the tenuous use of water as a device. References to Newater and holy water are introduced near the beginning, letting us in on the idea of water perhaps being used as a metaphorical thread. It makes sense in so far as it relates to the play’s title. Towards the end, however, at the height of the family’s most heated dinnertime argument, all four characters hold dishes filled with water, deliberately spilling it as the argument unfolds. As one of the few non-realistic elements in a play that is otherwise staged very naturalistically; the effect causes confusion rather than coherence.
The script also attempts to use melodrama to comic effect, but unfortunately the impeccable comic timing required for this to work is not quite achieved by the cast.
If I were to leave with one thought, though, it is sparked by Xiaoyan’s gripe about the unfairness that her husband’s drinking is seen as less of a transgression than if she were to eat pork. This is a reminder that some issues in life are indeed very complicated; a call for less judgement and more understanding.
In quite stark contrast is Whale Fall, a Pirandello-esque play in which the characters, who are actors acting in an as-yet-unfinished play, are dissatisfied with the first act and decide to change it. We are taken into the imaginations of each of them in turn, in the process becoming privy to some of their secrets and fantastical thoughts.
This play by Faith Ng explores friendship amongst other things – the characters are written as best friends, and I note from the performers’ biographies that the actors are indeed childhood pals in real life; knowing this little detail somehow makes this performance that much more special.
This is a bold exploration, and I do look forward to further development of this (and other) non-linear/non-narrative works in the local theatrical repertoire in future.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
THE ORANGE PRODUCTION by The Necessary Stage
10 – 13 August 2017
The Necessary Stage Black Box
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Jocelyn holds a double Masters in Theatre Studies/Research. She is a founding member of the Song and Dance (SoDa) Players – a registered musical theatre society in Singapore. She is currently building her portfolio career as an educator and practitioner in dance and theatre, while pursuing an MA in Education (Dance Teaching).