Solo works are difficult to come by, especially those that are written and performed by actors themselves. Seeking to express and challenge themselves creatively in various different aspects, solo works tend to cast a new light on performers – what they have to say, what they have to show and of course, what they can do.
GenerAsia generously starts 2018 off with PLATFORM SERIES: JOURNEYS, A Double Bill at the SOTA Studio Theatre. Presenting two performers who are no strangers to the vibrant theatre scene, Erwin Shah Ismail and Kimberly Chan prove to be more than mere performers and are brave to set out on their own 45 minute pieces of work. Though the writing front can be tighter and perhaps some dramaturgical help might prove useful, especially for Chan’s work, this is a promising start on their own creative journeys.
Kulit On The Go directed by Richard Tan is about the art of leather crafting. Despite the endangerment of the art due to brand consumerism and the rise in materialism, Kulit goes to educate and show the beauty of this craft to its audience by bringing the craft to them.
Erwin’s Kulit has seen various stages of constant progress – moving from Teater Ekamatra‘s Projek Suitcase to a showing over at Lasalle College of The Arts. Switching between various characters with ease, be it through body language or clear accent work, Erwin’s natural charm on stage never fails to shine through. With the script’s inherent humour based off a local context, his performance brings audience members plenty of joy and laughter.
The clear direction and natural audience engagement, such as getting someone to help dye a leather bracelet, is clever and an interesting approach to directly break the fourth wall. This style of open sharing feels comfortable and creates an atmosphere suitable for pursuing further discussion on the darker side of leather crafting towards the end of the show.
Though deeper discussion and prodding on its practices might be needed leave a stronger impact on the audience, I appreciate the attempt to balance out the feel-good nature of the beginning with questions worth thinking about.
Chan’s In Her Shoes also prompts the audience to empathise and look at life from four women’s perspective at different points of their life. Directed by Samantha Scott-Blackhall, this developing piece of work goes on a journey to embrace the trials and tribulations of a typical woman.
Confessing to loving shoes on stage and with an audience who seems to share the same sentiments, Chan captivates with the quirky moments in the show. My most memorable is when she begins having conversations with two separate pairs of shoes, while they each try to sell their sole to them. Though seemingly silly, it is evident that Chan is having fun and this quality comes through unmistakably.
However, similar to Kulit, the work falls a little flat when the dominant topic of love fills the bulk of the middle part. Coming from the perception of a 15 year old girl growing up, it is difficult to engage when the character’s experiences do not seem to contribute to any growth or change in her person.
As a triple threat, it is only natural for Chan to act, sing and dance in her own solo work. Accompanied on the piano by musical director Aloysius Foong, the live music never fails to set the scene and carry the story forward. One outstanding moment would be Chan dancing a fierce flamenco piece with her foot work and the piano singing a duet. The sounds go well together, and at this instant, the whole theatre comes alive.
And that is a moment that reminds me of why I go to the theatre.
The PLATFORM SERIES: JOURNEYS, A Double Bill is a simple but necessary start to having more varied stories in the scene. And though the works may still have a way to go, kudos to Erwin and Chan for stepping up and experimenting on this new platform to showcase their original work.
With more platforms helmed by established theatre companies in Singapore, here is to hoping that more performers will step up to this joy of creating from scratch and sharing their individual voices with the rest of us.