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“I Love A-AI”《我爱阿爱》

March 23, 2011
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Event: “I LOVE A-AI”《我爱阿爱》by The Theatre Practice
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Run: 17th Mar – 3rd Apr 2011

I usually take in Chinese plays only once or twice a year, not because I have anything against Chinese plays, but because for me the experience isn’t too different from watching a tennis match – my head turns left-right-left-right at least a few hundred times throughout the entire play in order to read the English surtitles on the screens.

That being said, I thought “I Love A-Ai” was one of the more enjoyable plays I’ve watched in awhile, regardless of language.

Thankfully, apart from being a good workout on the neck, the play was no less of a workout on the mind and the soul.

(However, once again I have to comment that the turnout for Chinese plays doesn’t seem very encouraging, not especially when you compare them to English plays.)

Anyhow, I thought “I Love A-Ai” was a very well-written play, and credit to Hong Kong playwright Raymond To for coming up with such a solid script which pierced right through to the heart on not a few occasions.

I liked how the play did not beat around the bush and introduced the main conflict right from the start – that the 70-year-old grandfather announces to his family that he has decided to marry his maid A-Ai, and that she is carrying his child.

So right from the start the battle lines are drawn, sides are taken, and we are immediately aware of what the bone of contention is going be.

I liked how the playwright gave ample room to explore the multiple inter-personal relationships within the play, such as how Wu Li Chun (Janice Koh) and her husband had their long scene in the garden whereby they examined their marriage from the inside out, how Wu Li De (Rei Poh) managed to go through the whole courtship process with Zeng Ru Jie (Catherine Wong), how the two ladies Wu Li Chun and her sister-in-law had this major confrontational scene with A-Ai (Katherine Tang) in the dining room, and so on.

It seemed as if the playwright left no loose ends untied, and as a result of that I felt a certain sense of satisfaction at the conclusion of the play.

That is not to say that the play did not have its sense of gravity.

I felt it raised many piercing issues, such as how we living in the modern Singapore society have subconsciously become so cold, heartless and discriminating that when we hear of someone being engaged to a lady from China, we immediately assume that she is in it for the money and nothing else.

We are quick to conclude that there can be no love involved whenever someone marries another person from a foreign land, but many a times we fail to see that it might be we ourselves who have forgotten how to love.

I thought the confrontation scene between the two women and A-Ai was particularly chilling in the way it brought out all the unspoken hypocrisy and vile that is present in so many of us today.

Sometimes it takes a simple girl from a foreign land to show us the true meaning of patience, respect and love.

My favourite part was when A-Ai said to the two highly-suspicious women something like “If I was really in it for the money, don’t you think I could have just spoken a few words into his (i.e. grandfather’s) ear?”

The revolving stage was very well used throughout the play, although it must have cost quite a bomb to install.

One (minor) issue I had with the play was that it seemed to suggest that it was set in the present (hence the reference to “Lady Gaga”), although one wonders why the Tamagotchi toy was referenced incessantly throughout the play, when the last anyone had seen or heard from a Tamagotchi toy was at least ten years ago.

But I’m just splitting hairs here.

Also, the play started and ended with Wu Li De being lost in his magical world of Andrea Bocelli music, and while the glorious music of Andrea Bocelli was heavily featured in the play, one has to wonder about two things – i) Was the Wu Li De character a pivotal enough character in the play such that it had to start and end with him? and ii) Was the choice of Andrea Bocelli music necessarily an appropriate one, considering it represented a rather stark contrast in cultures and context? Could a more relevant choice of music have been used instead?

Lastly, don’t expect too many twists in the plot for this one.

It is pretty much a straightforward exposition of the frailties and complexities of family relationships.

Albeit done in a very well-crafted and enjoyable fashion.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ilkosa permalink
    March 24, 2011 11:30 am

    “although one wonders why the Tamagotchi toy was referenced incessantly throughout the play, when the last anyone had seen or heard from a Tamagotchi toy was at least ten years ago.”

    Actually no, Tamagotchi toys are still being produced and played the world around, with new models gracing the market periodically.

    “Was the Wu Li De character a pivotal enough character in the play such that it had to start and end with him?

    Maybe Wu Lide is more like a narrator, like he was the one telling the story? And as it is, maybe it sets the premise of addressing what true love is, which is how he starts, describing his first love.

    Was the choice of Andrea Bocelli music necessarily an appropriate one

    Well, I don’t know about this one, but it could have direct relation to the translated ‘poem’ read by the niece later. Or maybe that love transcends language and is beautiful. I guess it’s possible to choose another song that has a similar reference.

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