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Tell Me When To Laugh & When To Cry 教我哭教我笑

August 18, 2012

Event: Tell Me When To Laugh and When To Cry 教我哭教我笑
(part of Esplanade’s The Studios series : Exchanges)
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio
Run: 8, 10 & 11 August 2012
Playwright/Director/Actor: Peter Sau 苏佳亮

Self. Yes, self. ‘Self’ was the main theme that was played throughout the performance, not as an indulgence, but as an introspective exploration of personalities, in five very different personas, all played by Peter Sau. This production was also a tribute to Kuo Pao Kun, this year being the 10th anniversary of his passing on. Peter Sau was a student of Kuo Pao Kun, and this ‘self’ theme was one that he taught his students, of going deep into your own self, theatre stripped bare.

Performed in both English and Mandarin, the production was based on an interesting concept of casting directors instead of actors (I suppose that’s how the title came about?). The play purports to give an afterlife to characters once introduced in other plays directed by the likes of Ivan Heng, Casey Lim, Natalie Hennedige and Li Xie. In this second act, the characters are put together in lives connected, like the love affair between Mosquito Man and Mother, and the encounter between Branson and Daniel.

The two-act production was a conversation with/by many selves, the first half being an introduction to the personas’ background and their perspectives, and the second half, the possible “afterlife” that they might have, i.e. how their stories might have continued. This brings me to think about how some of us might actually wonder about something similar, or as audience, might have wished that things would have turn out another way or directed in another way.

Anyway, a quick run-down of the characters:
1) Branson Sau (苏不起) – taxi driver character inspired by ‘Branson’ from Cooling Off Day (2011), as well as The Coffin is Too Big for the Hole and Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral written by Kuo Pao Kun
2) Daniel Sau (苏丹尼尔) – inspired by ‘Daniel’ from A Language of Their Own (2006)
3) Gaga Peterina (卡卡彼得丽娜) – a new persona created by Peter Sau and Gani Karim
4) Mosquito Man (苏蚊人) – inspired by ‘Mosquito Man’ from Nothing (2007)
5) Mother (母亲‘闷骚’) inspired by ‘Mother’ from House of Sins (2008)

I had unfortunately not had a chance to watch all the plays the characters were derived from, but I felt Peter Sau made a rather good effort in playing the 5 characters, trying to portray each character as uniquely as they would be. Probably the most distinct character was Mosquito Man with his mosquito voice and innocent and hopeful character, a contrast from the rest. Although I felt that maybe not all the personas were fully developed, it’s not easy having to transit between the characters and it was a challenge Peter posed to himself. For him, the newly created Gaga was closest to his heart where he goes deeper into his own self and addresses an artiste’s conflicts and struggles, the reasons of why he’s doing what he’s doing.

In most of the scenes, they start out on a little lighter note, but ends off on a heavier note. What I thought was good abut this production was how it addresses some of the social stigmas and issues in the midst of humor. We had the ‘cursory’ political references though addressed in a reversed psychology way, the case about censorship (which I felt was the funniest scene in the show), and the persecution faced by AIDS patients. There is a message, or many, to be told. And the touch of the brief car accident encounter between Branson and Daniel (who has AIDS) could spin off another track of pushing the audience to think about the social response in such a situation, as what Peter mentioned in the post-show dialogue. Subtly, we are introduced also to the legwork an artiste has to do for his craft, whether through interviews, observations or even obstacles faced.

The ending scenes where Petar Sau contemplates the few possible endings to the stories brings us back to art of theatre and aptly, the production closes with a stripped down mannequin as the centerpiece, representing the bare-naked true self, exposed and discovered.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. peter sau permalink
    November 30, 2012 4:53 pm

    Hi, i am really thankful for your review of my one man show, it’s almost 3 months later that i am reading this, so grateful for your insights, gratitude, peter sau

    • Ilkosa permalink
      December 3, 2012 8:54 am

      You’re most welcome. Hope to see more works from you.


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