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Everything But The Brain

August 17, 2013


Event: Everything But The Brain by Sightlines Productions
Run: 10-21 August 2013
Venue: DBS Arts Centre
Written by: Jean Tay
Directed by: Derrick Chew
Main Cast:  Gerald Chew, Koh Wan Ching, Edward Choy

Who would have thought physics theories like Newton’s Laws and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity could be such fodder for a play? Besides a revision on physics, the play was also informative in its attempt to create an awareness of the effects and symptoms of strokes.

The play tells the story of Elaine, a Physics teacher who takes a year off work to look after her stroke-afflicted father. In between, she meets the young doctor in charge of her father’s case, but…to a much awkward ending.

As educational/serious as the topic sounds (of strokes and physics), the play was quite accessible with its humour and rather interesting text. Well, some of the relativity theory parts went over my head but it didn’t affect the plot and occurred at points that related to Elaine’s cluelessness about physics when the theories were explained to her (in the form of a 3 Bears theory). Maybe I should study Einstein’s theory to get some context and reference. haha! However, even amid the laughter, the play rather moved me near the end when her father inevitably dies. You knew there was a strong bond between the two underneath all that bickering. And as the story goes, even though it is titled “everything but the brain”, it is everything about the brain. The way the brain works, the ‘genius’ we try to preserve, the strokes which affect the brain and the causes, the dreams and memories we have…

Personally, I felt one thing that stood out was the constant theme on Time. You have Elaine, single and growing older each year. Then you have her father, who gets ill as a result of old age, and then the reference to the past and lost time, the desire to turn back time. And eventually, you find that time is really relative isn’t it? Whether you find it too long or short, or you realise that you don’t seem to have enough time to deal with what matters or recover lost time, the meaning of time is relative, even though it is absolute with its minutes and seconds. The only constant and reality is that time will not wait for you.
However, one thing that was a bit disruptive to me was what I felt to be rather sudden “time zone shifts” at some points of the play, when I briefly needed to get my bearings again of which time period was being referred to. It could be a transitional issue or just me lah.

I think one thing about Jean Tay’s plays is the way she creates a story with such resources like physics and previously, weaving folk tales with crime stories. The research she puts in shows and makes for interesting material and layers.

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