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Ivan Heng’s Emily of Emerald Hill

March 24, 2011
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This is way overdue, and with Jeremy already summing it up pretty well earlier, a brief stake in impressions is only what I have. It’s been a while, so things are a bit hazy now…

One man, a monologue and Esplanade Theatre. How would that play out? Ivan Heng reprises his role as Emily of Emerald Hill, of which was how I’ve heard about him and the play really, though I never got to catch that performance. Initially I was puzzled at how a monologue would fit into the size of the Esplanade Theatre, but as it was, he pulled it off, not just with the sets which were pretty huge for a play like this, but with his stage presence.

As true to what I expected, it was a much lighter, and rather entertaining version of Margaret Chan’s interpretation last year at the Singapore Arts Festival. It was rather funny when he actually ‘directed’ the audience as they became his calefare for scenes. One being, I believe, an impromptu one when a person arrived late for the show. It was an opportune timing since she (Emily) was conducting a class (they probably let her in at this point)? Of course, there were still those serious, poignant parts that warranted a stir of the emotions which Ivan brought out in his role.

Well, having watched Margaret Chan’s version, it isn’t surprising that I would unintentionally, or intentionally, compare this performance with that. While Margaret’s Emily was one of subtlety in her manoeuvrings within the household, Ivan’s Emily was, as Jeremy puts it, a little more brash. But Ivan’s portrayal pushed the story along quickly (there were lesser /fast-forwarded scenes) while Margaret’s portrayal gave us time for pensive thought and tunnel into her psyche. It was quite a feat with Ivan clearly running through the lines at a rapid speed for the fast-forwarded portion.

Both thespians were equally adept in their different interpretations, but if I really had to decide between the 2 Emilys, I would say Margaret brought out the inner strength and dare I say “fragility” of Emily more than Ivan, as I kept my focus on what made Emily this way. But then again, I tend to go for the “pensive” side of things. A commendable performance nonetheless by Ivan.

I’m looking forward to Ivan’s next one-man show by Huzir Sulaiman The Weight of Silk On Skin, which I glimpsed in the programme. Wonder when’s that.

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