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Roots 《根》

December 7, 2012


Event: Roots 《根》 by The Finger Players (十指帮)
Run: 29 Nov – 2 Dec 2012
Venue: Drama Centre Black Box
Directed/Written/Performed/Set Designed by: Oliver Chong 钟达成

It’s surprising how a simple 千里寻根 story can keep one drawn. Was it the familiarity of the Cantonese dialect that struck a chord? Or the resonance it had in the writer with its proximity to something close to the heart? One thing’s for sure was that Oliver Chong’s direction, performance and storytelling skills played major roles in making the show what it was.

First greeted by a giant sand box, retro Chinese songs played on a vintage cassette player and rice cooking in a rice cooker, one wondered how the show would carry on. Maybe I read too much into each of these, but was the rice cooking a kind of “timer” (for it did kind of have that use in the start of the show) or a representation of the Chinese culture, since rice plays a big role in our diet. And the “sand” (which I heard was rice actually). Besides the practical use of panning out the journey and writing keywords, did it represent a “sands of time” notion? After all, it was a search that transcends a few generations, and something to be grasped. A kind of land and search ideal too, maybe. Well, I guess I’m probably thinking too much as all these are really open to interpretation. But it was a nice set up nonetheless, simple yet serving its purpose of preparing us for the journey that Oliver was bringing us along, although I believe some of us were surprised when Oliver began with eating the sand/rice from the sand box (you would have expected the cooked rice instead).

Performed in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, it was easy to follow and engaging as Oliver delivered the story with humour, reflection and authenticity. Together we followed him through the ups and downs of his search, the blessings and obstacles he faced. You felt indignant with him on the uncalled for and mean “你的“钟”是被阉了的“鍾”,你还来寻根做什么?” (or something like that – “Your “Chong” is the castrated “Chong”, so what’s the point of finding your roots?”). You felt happy that he had good help too that pointed him in the right direction. Then there was the family connection, though hazy, which was heartfelt. Some things might be better left unsaid, but something has happened on a deeper level. I personally felt that one of the most beautiful moments came when in the midst of drawing routes and enacting the story, he completed the word “家” (family) that spread across the whole sand box, timed perfectly. I think the planning of the use of the sand box was really well done, requiring good timing and direction/choreography.

Watching this, you come to realise that a journey like this requires a lot of faith to keep persevering. You also find that sometimes, if you’re meant to find something, you will, and things will align. If not, all the things you do won’t work. Even though at the end of the day, the outcome might not be what you expected nor understandable, and you may not find answers, but the journey enriches nonetheless. A journey of faith and fate really.

An excellent performance.

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