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Those Who Can’t, Teach

June 2, 2010
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Two weeks ago, I started my “exposition” to experience this year’s Singapore Arts Festival. My first stop? Haresh Sharma’s Those Who Can’t, Teach. Notice the significance of the comma in the title. It’s been a while so some thoughts might have been lost, but I’ll try to give what I recall. Jeremy has already reviewed it earlier 2 weeks back, so here’s mine.

This was actually a re-staging of the said title by Necessary Stage (same theatre group) and directed by the same director then, Alvin Tan, but with an updated context of present day school life and society. What I can say is that it made fighting my jetlag easy!

This new update was ‘drastically’ different from the original (you can find a copy of that on http://nora.nl.sg/). Yes, it was a school setting still with a dedicated Mrs Phua, an “usurping” Ricky and delinquent students. But society has changed much, what with technology, scandals, etc. However, the underlying issues are still the same and still exists. Problems kids face, the negligence, the system…

The show was very entertaining and funny at many points as we relate to what we have heard, seen or experienced. How difficult it is to balance work and family, making choices. So it’s true that teachers can only get married in either June or December only? It is very true how your teacher will influence you in future. If you have a good teacher, you’ll more likely be inspired. Then there are those scholars whom most know will have a clear path ahead of them, regardless of whether they can really do the job. And some who just take teaching as “just another job”.
However, it ended on a sad note, in my opinion, contrary to what some pointed out due to the “joyous” reminiscence of a celebration. How in the end, Mrs Phua, the dedicated teacher was left alone in an old folks’ home, going senile and regretting how she neglected her family. It was a poignant moment and was all her hard work really worthed it? Must ask the teachers. It was touching too to see that the most 恶劣 student was the one who came regularly to visit her. But he didn’t seem happy, having conformed to expectations of society, with regrets too.

As usual, the actors had to play more than 1 role. It’s funny how you know why some characters aren’t appearing because the actor was acting in another role, but they “point it out”. I think all the actors played their roles very well. It was interesting how the actors themselves came up with the portrayal of their roles, new script and interpretations (as they mentioned during the post-show dialogue), which they drew from their observations and personal experiences.

It was a good production, mainly on how well it relates to Singapore’s society and structure, and how well everything was played and acted out. Of course, it showed how dynamic theatre can be, the amount of improvisation and adaptability that a script can have. I think that’s how it is with plays that deals with social issues. I think Haresh and Alvin work really well together (it’s been so many years) and their openness to creativity are commendable as arts practitioners. One can’t be too 执著 at times. How everyone interprets a piece can vary greatly.

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