Inheritance.

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Credit: Tuckys Photography.

As part of The Finger Players2016 season, Inheritance is one out of three back-to-back productions presented during this month of April. Written by Ellison Yuyang Tan and directed by Zelda Tatiana Ng, the performance captured the bittersweet beauty of family in its straightforwardness and simplicity.

Inheritance tells the tale of the relationship between two sisters – Xin Yi and Xin Yuan – and their mother. With the past constantly catching up, they struggle to move forward into the future together. What would happen when one sister gives up on another? How about digging up secrets and confronting the truths about each other? The hour-long performance explores the constant shift in dynamics between all three characters, and questions what being family really means.

Casual, crass and incredibly cutting sometimes, the script brought out the essence of their familial relationships through dialogue between the characters. Told in English, Mandarin as well as dialect, the languages used were reflections of the sounds typically heard in a Chinese household in Singapore. It also came as a pleasant surprise since most scripts staged locally are usually in one language or just in Singlish. I appreciated the mixed use of languages since it offered a closer depiction of communication between family in real life. It made the performance instantaneously relatable, and that made the story-telling easy to follow.

Bold in depiction and not shying away from controversial topics, the performance was a true confrontation of raw emotion and reaction.

While the dialogue would be one of the main driving forces of the piece, the creative direction of the performance definitely brought the story to live on stage.

The set was a simple division of space to play with stage levels and multiple entry points. Despite being non-realistically designed, its minimalism and clear cut platforms left plenty to the imagination. Personally, that made the experience more exciting for me since my mind was offered the freedom to create alongside the characters. With only sounds and light design to feed clues about the surroundings of each scene, each audience member received the chance to personalise their own visual experience in their mind’s eye.

It was also interesting to notice how the distance between the actors and the audience was constantly manipulated throughout the performance. Fun fact: audience members tended to hold their breath for longer when the characters came closer to the edge of the stage.

The overall doll-like aesthetic of the production worked well, especially for the actors –  Jo Kwek, Lina Yu and Yeo Kok Siew. Together with make-up running down their faces and physicalised quirks or habits, the actors were successfully transformed into living dolls living in a dollhouse. With minimal use of props and plenty of miming, the dollhouse idea was consistent throughout and reinforced strongly.

What struck me the most was how the actors still managed to bring out the truth in their words and deliver their emotions across so well, without once breaking out of their doll-like physicality. It was a curious juxtaposition, and one that worked well to bring across messages of the script – to keep audiences’ thinking.

Mesmerising and hauntingly beautiful, the experience left me wanting to go back into that dollhouse just to live through their lives one more time.

Originally written for Popspoken.

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