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Jen’s Homecoming

December 6, 2011
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Event: Jen’s Homecoming by Skinned Knee Productions
Run: 25-27 November 2011
Venue: Creative Cube, LASALLE College of the Arts
Playwright: Yang Ming
Director: Hilmi Shukur

Okay, I know this is long overdue, but I did have the opportunity to catch this play more than a week ago, written by Yang Ming, a relatively new playwright on the theatre scene. Having just graduated from LaSalle, she is currently being mentored by Chong Tze Chien in NAC’s Mentor Access Project, and as I read in the programme, selected for the SRT’s Writers Week. It’s always encouraging to find new aspiring local playwrights being able to stage their plays and we should try to support them in one way or another. This was also Hilmi Shukur’s directional debut.

The story tells of Jen, a successful fashion designer who returns home from London after ten(?) years and finds herself a stranger to Singapore, left only with her memories of what it used to be. She tries to convince her father to move with her to London, but her father reveals his plans for her to stay in Singapore and take over his tailoring business. Soon after, Jen discovers that her father has dementia. Would that make her stay or would she bring her father overseas anyway, since he’s losing his memory?

Firstly, I think it was good that some social issues/topics are touched here, one being migration and the other, dementia. What drives people to want to migrate? Is it a feeling of estrangement of what was once home? Greener “pastures”? Love? These were all the reasons that Jen gave. And on dementia, the denial and the confusion that one experiences was gently and subtly introduced into the plot through the dialogue, which was good. I’m not familiar with dementia, but I do believe the symptoms slowly reveal themselves, maybe just like this.

However, I felt that these could have been delved a little deeper, or portrayed as such, so that they could have made a deeper connection with the audience (or me, in particular). One question that bugged me was, why was she so adamant in leaving? Could there be something else? That wasn’t really explained enough and somehow didn’t build up the climax enough to the point where I believed could be one of the main reasons, that she was engaged to someone in England already (I believe that was the twist of the whole show when her fiancé appeared). Even her fiancé began warming up to Singapore. I didn’t really like the part when she told her father it’s because of Lee, her childhood friend’s revelation of his love for her, which I felt was really an excuse she made use of and a little weak. It might have been better building up on the fiancé aspect for more depth, but that is just my view. I must take into account the intended length of the play. To add on, I found it a little difficult to engage emotionally; even though father and daughter were supposed to be close, I didn’t feel it much. How much did he really matter to her? Yes, the conversation did go in that direction, but expressions fell short. Granted, it was the first night that I went, so maybe the cast was having their first-night jitters, even as I felt the chemistry between actors a bit lacking. However, nearing the end, I observed the lead beginning to show signs of a better connection with the role (even tearing at the very end), which eventually managed to moved me as the play closed in a scene that left us hanging by what she said – was she going to stay or not? It made me realise how important emotions are portrayed by the actor which will actually bring out our own emotions…must be them exuding a certain “vibe” that induces us so. The “realness” as one might say. Maybe a quicker pacing could have made the show more intense and “dramatic”.

Actually, I was just thinking if there’s some irony here. I think I read too much here, but ironically, it is the little memory that she has which makes her want to leave, while it might be the diminishing memory of her father’s that might give her reason to stay.

Anyway, I heard some positive reviews from my friends for the later shows, so maybe it so happened this way for me on the first night. But I do think Yang Ming’s talent can be developed even as she is still young and already recognised by the opportunities given her. I sincerely wish her all the best and hope to see more works coming out from her.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2011 3:09 pm

    Hi, Ilkosa,

    Nice review! Thanks for your sharing. =)

    I have been enjoying reading what you had been written in “Buttons In The Bread” for a while already since somewhere in late October. Although I’m not in the Arts Industry, I’m very touched by your faithful effort to write how you feel about each performance and your earnest support to the local productions. I believe it will be a huge encouragement for the many labourers (whether they have been known or yet to be known and the hidden heroes/heroines behind stage) in our local field.

    Please keep it up, Ilkosa! Looking forward to more writings from you! ^^V

    The storyline of “Jen’s Homecoming” seem very meaningful to me and many rooms for discussion; a pity that I did not know about it, if not, I would like to catch it!

    Yes! We should support and continue to encourage more new playwrights and many new works (no matter are from the existing or new practitioners) from our local industry in the near future!

    “Jia You” also, Yang Ming! For more of your works to come in 2012! =)

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