Monday, July 29, 2013

The Beauty of Melancholy ... My review of "Melancholy Play" presented by Couch Theatre

To start off, let me ask you this question … who do you find more attractive and fall in love with :

·         Someone who sighs wistfully, looks out of the window, has a facial expression like a forlorn puppy, always seems to vulnerable and just on the edge of depression … or

·         Someone who is running around screaming in joy, growing happier daily, perpetually grinning and singing and humming a merry tune and just on the edge of insanity …

For me, I would prefer the former. Why? I guess I want to provide for the person and care for the person and seem like I am “protecting” the person. What more can I do for a really happy person?

This is what I got from watching “Melancholy Play” by Sarah Ruhl. I caught this on Friday evening at the Drama Centre BlackBox at the National Library. This play was presented by Couch Theatre. The theme of the play is the feeling of “Melancholia” and how someone who is melancholy can have such an effect on others feelings and emotions. When the melancholia goes away .. the feelings change. The play also showed me the beauty of being melancholy and why it isn’t such a bad thing after all.

I have never read this play, or neither did I do any deep research into it prior to attending the play / writing my preview several weeks ago. All I knew was that this play was about “Being Melancholy” and something about an “almond.” But I got so much deeper meaning from watching the play. I guess this was only because the direction and the cast was excellent.

It is extremely refreshing and joyous to see a cast of actors and actresses whom I have never seen before. This is because then everything starts from a clean slate .. no expectations, no “previous” roles kind of baggage in my mind. Couch Theatre was formed by a group of students .. young ‘tweenagers’ who have a strong passion for the theatres. I has the chance to speak to the director and the production manager after the show and I was very impressed by the aims and aspirations of Couch Theatre. Currently, they are planning 2 productions a year with an aim of 4 yearly in the future. They also want to move away from the mainstream ha-ha-ha kind of play (which I personally think we have too much of) and more into something more engaging and thoughtful. I truly support their aims !!!

The acting was above par. Considering that the main cast of 6 persons have never had any prior professional training, their acting is above par to that of some of the so-called “professional actors” here in Singapore. The one person who stood out for me was Ms Cheryl Foo who played the main role of “Tilly.” The transition between the mournful melancholy Tilly to the slightly crazed, wild-eyed Tilly was seamless and looked effortless on her part. Her facial expressions were spot on.. delivery of her lines were clear and timing was excellent. Cheryl had a very polished and confident performance with a strong stage presence.  Cheryl will go far if she wishes to continue in theatre. I can see her being the new Emma Yong (just needs to improve her singing)… and I say that honestly !!! I haven’t seen such a bright and great talent since I saw Erwin Shah.

The acting of the two main male roles played by Ziyad and Shien Hian were of a high standard. Again they were confident actors, had good poise, spoke strong and well (though for Shien Hian, sometimes the accent resulted in words being mumbled), had the right expressions and most important did not ‘overact.’ My pet peeve is with actors and actresses who overact. A good actor / actress acts with just the right amount of emotion in their poise, stance, tone and expression.

For the remaining two female roles, Rei-En and Selene did a good job. However, their roles were too small to make a very long lasting impression as compared to the role of Tilly. Also their roles were rather one-dimensional so I am unable to see the depth in their acting.

If I had anything to complain about, it would be for two small things. Firstly, the singing. It is quite clear that none of the cast (except for Adrian, the cellist) had much or any singing background. The singing was not exactly well blended amongst the 5 voices and the cello. It was rather jarring at certain points. However, I thought this somehow fitted into this “melancholy” theme. When we are happy, we hear music with happy, strong melodies of a Major chord. When we are sad and down, we tend to enjoy music which is more of the disjointed and of a Minor chord. Next is the follow-on spotlighting. But there were a few times when I felt that the spot lighting was not spot-on (pun intended). I know this is a very small issue but it does have an effect on the overall performance.

Overall, I really enjoyed myself at “Melancholy Play,” and I would really like to thank Jasmine for the invite and the great seat. The Drama Centre BlackBox is a great venue because it gives a very intimate and cosy feeling to the audience. It also gives the chance for the audience to view the cast close-up. I was seated between family of one of the cast members. I spoke to the father and was glad to hear that he encouraged and supported his daughter to do this. The whole family seemed to be enjoying themselves and must have been very proud to see their daughter in action (I am not sure if it was Cheryl, Rei-En or Selene). These days parents are too busy telling their children that they should be a professional so that can earn lots of money blah blah blah. Again I hope to see more of Couch Theatre’s future productions and I wish them all the best on fulfilling their aims and aspirations. If their future productions are going to be like this production of “Melancholy Play,” I will proudly be a supporter. Keep up the hard work !!!

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