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Model Citizens by TNS

January 18, 2011

It’s been hard trying to pen my thoughts down as this play by Haresh Sharma seems to have many underlying messages/layers that I’m not sure where to start. Maybe I should start with something simpler.

The synopsis.

A man stabs an MP at a Meet the People Session. But this is not their story. It is the story of the man’s girlfriend, an Indonesian maid who wants to get married and become a Singapore citizen. It is the story of the MP’s wife, who tries to cope with her husband’s injury and the media spotlight. It is the story of the maid’s employer, who is also struggling with her own tragedy. These 3 women may mean nothing to each other, but they need one another to survive. The maid, the employer and the MP’s wife. Are they all model citizens?

The 3 women cross paths, under an unexpected circumstance. 3 backgrounds, 3 languages, how do they communicate? Gradually, a slow convergence of the 3 women, from 3 diversities to a somewhat common ground occurred, with the use of magic realism (as so described) as they become a part of “cross-realities” that transcends language. Boundaries are blurred.

The sets. Simple as they are, I liked the way the sets (cupboards) were used to define the (confined) space representing each person. The sets were modified/”flipped”/moved around during the show to bring you to different zones physically and mentally (i.e. the characters’ personal spaces). Apt that at the end, the cupboards were closed up, marking the end of the play, like closing a chapter as each character moves on.

The disturbing scene. It’s interesting to note that 2 deaths were placed side-by-side and played out concurrently in a particular scene, one, the abortion scene of Melly and two, the moments before “Angel”, Wendy’s son took his own life as shown in a FB wall chat. 2 “youths”, one, before it has a chance to live, another finding no reason to live. Is this a coincidence or intended placement? The only problem here was that it was difficult to watch both the online chat going on and the abortion taking place.

The issues. I guess one main question is, what really constitutes a “model citizen”? Is it the person who follows the rules, but is eventually unhappy and not really getting what she wants out of life? The mother who tries her best, but ends up with a dead son? A foreigner who desires so much to be a citizen that she tries all means to get her “green card” to stay? Just perfect on the outside, but not necessarily so on the inside.
Social classes are explored with the higher, middle and lower classes converging. We see how power corrupts as it slowly manifests as a less than compassionate Mrs Chua who does it for “show” when she is on “cover duty” for her husband. An ugly side of her is revealed, true or not when she gets into an argument with Wendy and tears open Wendy’s wounds. Maybe she was ok initially, but trying to be the “model citizen” and MP’s wife took it away. For all of them, their dreams were forgotten.

Eventually, however, there was some hopefulness at the end with each finally letting go of the past (or present), and moving on. I believed it draws us back to where they all started. Their dreams – the “perfect” status, the “perfect” home, the “perfect” country.

The play ended with no curtain call…was it to maintain the tone? But there was a post-show dialogue session where I learnt some things. It’s all about the point of view.

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