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March 3, 2012

photo credit: Jason Wee

Event: “Tongues” by Jason Wee and Sean Tobin
Festival: M1 Singapore Fringe Festival’12 : Art & Faith
Venue: Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore
Run: 16-19 February 2012
Cast: Nora Samosir, Serena Ho, Walter Hanna, Faizal Abdullah

M1 Fringe Fest ended last weekend and with much delay, here’s a short write-up of another play I caught. I wasn’t quite sure what I should make of it.
It had an unconventional structure in its presentation, which in my personal opinion, might not have been the best way.

The gist of it:
As the morgue temperature rises, 4 corpses awake in the midst of waiting for their identification and autopsy. As the temperature falls again (this happens a few times), they are thrown into dream-like scenarios and each different as the scene jumps.

Starting off in a casual manner to “get the audience involved”, it was on the outset that it was probably meant to be that way, having the actors stroll into the theatre, and even “cuts” called by the director in the ongoing play. However, I found this too disruptive to the play, almost like it was a rehearsal, causing a jarring effect to the flow. I felt it would have been more impactful without those interruptions. Also, due to the many abrupt shifts in characters, it was a bit difficult to find the story behind each one, as it seems only snapshots were taken. Maybe it’s meant to be this way, that dream-like scenario.

The religious theme was apparent, and at times, maybe even “offensive” or viewed as a mockery, inducing, I believe, some of the audience to walk out. Yes, it was a tad uncomfortable at some points, but I wanted to hear them out.
In the post-show dialogue, I found out that the inspiration came from Sean’s religious environment since young and also as a “compilation” of interviews and surveys with people and their views. It was meant to raise questions on what people think about religion, not a personal commentary on the part of both writers. I do wonder why the show was called “Tongues” though? Maybe due to the many voices of people? Or as corpses, there are many questions that you can no longer ask? Anything to do with the Tower of Babel?

One thing I liked about the show was the sound design by Dirk Stromberg. With its “surround” quality, it helped the audience through the scenes and I liked the way it was engineered. I also felt that the repeated scene at the end of “are you there, God?”, where one of the characters seeks answers from God, but doesn’t hear His replies even though He was there replying, was a nice touch. It had a somewhat different quality as compared to the earlier “interrupted” instance; I think the repeat made that poignant touch to the show.

So there, I guess that’s all I have for this show. Just another note, the book (published by Math Paper Press, 2012) was launched last Friday (24 Feb) at BooksActually.

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