剧评:PUPPET ORIGIN STORIES @ ONE-TWO-SIX

Image(s) courtesy of The Finger Players. Photos by Tuckys Photography


到经禧艺术中心作客—— 观《偶起源故事@126


/梁海彬



演出前,十指帮联合艺术总监陈宇泱与骆丽诗与观众见面,讲述经禧艺术中心的前世今生,述说这栋建筑物的历史。这里是十指帮的,也是Teater KamiAct 3 InternationalThe Arts Fission等的所在地,《偶起源故事@126》(简称《偶》)分两条看戏路线,观众分成两组,由向导带领,在一个晚上看3场演出。在演出之间的空档,观众可随意走动,参观中心内摆放在不同角落的木偶展览。





Image(s) courtesy of The Finger Players. Photos by Tuckys Photography



《偶》是戏中戏,可供多层解读,不同解读也能提供不同的看戏趣味。我先在户外观赏扎实的操偶表演“Jabber”,再看“Suck sweat dry, baby!”如何颠覆和玩弄木偶,最后在《阿嬷》和剧组人反思新加坡偶戏的未来,所以我的看戏体验应该和在另一条路线的观众有稍稍不同的感受和解读。经禧艺术中心作为这齣戏的框架,那么我先在艺术中心的外围看戏,再进入十指帮的排练场看戏,最后在Teater Kami的黑箱剧场看戏,顺序渐进地直达艺术创作者的创作空间,体验艺术工作者的日常作息和灵感泉源,感觉就像是到艺术工作者们的家里做客。


而这座中心的每一砖每一瓦都注入了这群艺术工作者们的气息,中心的每一个角落也有戏味,艺术工作者留下的印迹都成了可看的。例如某一道门后传来悦耳的美声,是前来练歌的人;例如走廊上的拖鞋,让人怀想是属于哪一位艺术工作者的…… 观众来作客,十指帮也为观众提供啤酒,尽地主之谊,《偶》更像一场温馨的派对。





Image(s) courtesy of The Finger Players. Photos by Tuckys Photography


木偶是主角,尘封多年,再次走出了十指帮的储藏室,为观众呈现新故事。“Jabber”在艺术中心背后的一块窄小空地演出,那里有好几架冷气机排放器,该戏探讨孩童的内心阴影,利用木偶,把负面的、无法述诸于口的隐藏情感外显化。满是冷气机排放器的那处狭窄空间成了隐喻,故事里饰演阴影的角色时隐时现,在夜幕下为观众开启魔幻与想象的空间,日常的空间有了想象力的拓展。“Suck sweat dry, baby!”以木偶演绎处于社会边缘的人们面对的困境和社会压力,探讨同性恋者们的窘境。社会分类体制接受能被规范的群体,排斥具流动性质的边缘人,边缘人不得不日复一日地假扮、压抑自己的个性。木偶本身便具有流动性的特质,创作团队以人和偶的互动,打造出一场寻找爱与包容的旅程,他们有时操偶,有时真人演绎,人和偶的界限被打破,在自嘲中自勉,让人悸动。令人惊喜的是贝卡如何将自己化作一座山,任木偶爬山、休憩,找到继续往前搜索的勇气和动力,于是看似巨大的山不再是阻碍,也可是一种强大的推动力,使边缘人坚强,使边缘人更有韧性。该戏运用多种戏剧手法和流行文化,解读趣味最丰富。《阿嬷》让陈鸣阗再次操起木偶阿嬷,创作团队给观众播放当年陈鸣阗与十指帮伙伴们演出的片段,并在戏中想象未来,想象十指帮解散了,陈鸣阗把木偶送进博物馆,但和阿嬷对谈后,竟然萌起了偷走阿嬷的念头,以此探讨何为保留,何为传承。如今陈鸣阗的功力更深,与阿嬷再次同台,道出了操偶人对木偶的情意和担忧,深情演绎却不渲染于是加倍让人揪心。剧末,导演把观众的身影投射在屏幕上,观众恍然大悟,原来《偶起源故事@126》是通过木偶的前世今生,让观众对偶生情—— 离场时,我身边有一观众情不自禁地转头对木偶说:拜拜,阿嬷!


原来,观众来作客,陈宇泱与骆丽诗却不愿他们仅仅当一名过客和看客,而是希望观众能够成为这些木偶的生命旅途中的一份子。


十指帮把经禧艺术中心变成了剧场,观众既是参与者,更是见证者,大家都有份参与木偶的今生来世,都有份缔造十指帮未来的走向。离场前,陈宇泱呼吁观众填上意见表,因为这是艺术理事会对本地剧团提供的要求,用以决定未来的津贴支配。一家剧团需要整个社会的支持和协助,《偶起源故事@126》为观众揭示的是,这些掌中戏也许起源自经禧路126号,但偶戏的未来实则掌握在每一个观众的掌中。






Image(s) courtesy of The Finger Players. Photos by Tuckys Photography




关于演出:2022119日,8PM,经禧艺术中心,十指帮呈现



演出详情:https://sg.bookmyshow.com/e/POSTFP22


场刊:https://fingerplayers.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/TFP_POS_ProgBooklet_FA.pdf



***



A post-performance experience viewing Puppet Origin Stories @ 126 as a visitor to ONE-TWO-SIX Cairnhill Arts Centre


Review by Neo Hai Bin

Translated from Chinese to English by Ellison Tan Yuyang


—"This translation has been done to offer the reader a foundational understanding of the beautifully written Chinese review, and some key nuances might be lost in translation. The translator apologizes in advance."


 

Co-Artistic Directors Ellison Tan and Myra loke greet audience members before they are ushered into the performance venues, relegating them with the past lives of ONE-TWO-SIX Cairnhill Arts Centre, narrating the histories of this building. This is "home" to The Finger Players, and also houses companies Teater Kami, Act 3 International and The Arts Fission. Puppet Origin Stories @ 126 (POS@126) has two viewing routes, and audiences are split into two groups to watch the triple bill with the guidance of a "tour guide". In between performances, audiences are free to roam around the building to view a mini exhibition of Puppet Worlds that pop up across the compound. 

 

POS@126 is a show within a show, and there are multiple layers of interpretation that offers the viewer varied experiences. I first find myself outdoors enjoying JABBER, a piece that’s grounded in puppetry, and then see how SUCK SWEAT DRY, BABY plays with puppets and subverts our perception of it. Finally, I enter into a reflexive headspace with the creative team of AH MA, collectively ponder over the future of puppetry in Singapore. And so I believe my viewing experience and my emotional trail would have differed slightly from audiences who were on another route. We begin outside Cairnhill Arts Centre, the building that essentially frames the show. We then go into the rehearsal space of The Finger Players, and eventually into Teater Kami's Black Box. It is as though I have been gradually invited into the creative space(s) of an Artist. I experience their daily routine and witness their sources of inspiration, and I feel as though I have been warmly invited to their home.  

 

Every brick and tile in this building is imbibed with an air of artistry, and every nook and cranny in the arts centre seems to come alive, the traces left behind by these theatre practitioners almost becoming a performance in itself. For example, a medley of beautiful voices coming from behind a door - from a group of choral enthusiasts; slippers left behind along the corridor leads us to wonder who it belongs to... Audiences are not only audiences, but also guests, and The Finger Players play host, providing beer and drinks, throwing the best party they can. Indeed, POS@126 feels like a heart-warming party. 


Puppets are the star of this show. They leave their storage spaces after many years, ready to tell new stories. JABBER is being performed at a narrow space behind the arts centre, with many air-condition vents peppered around the space. The show is about the inner demons of a child, and through puppetry, these negative and difficult feelings are provided with an avenue for expression. The performance space replete with aircon vents becomes a metaphor, and the "Shadow" in the story appears intermittently, unlocking the audience's imagination and creating a magical dreamscape under the night sky. 

 

SUCK SWEAT DRY, BABY uses puppetry to explore themes of marginalization; a predicament in which members of the LGBTQI community often find themselves in, and the societal pressures placed upon them. Society seeks comfort in segregating communities, and in the categorizable, rejecting those who find ease in fluidity, marginalizing and othering these individuals. The “other” then impose upon themselves layers of pretence on a daily basis, suppressing their personalities. Like them, puppets too have fluidity at their core. The creatives within this performance are at times puppeteer, at times human actors, and through their interactions with puppets, create a piece about love and acceptance. The boundaries between human and puppet are broken, and as performers self-deprecate they also self-sooth, and the result of that is exceptionally moving. A surprising moment in the show is when Becca D’Bus uses her body to morph into mountainous terrain for puppets to climb and rest, as though offering herself as courage and motivation to continue moving forward. What initially looked insurmountable is no longer an obstruction, but a powerful motivation for those at the margins to be stronger and more resilient. This performance incorporated the use of multiple theatrical forms and pop culture references, and offered the viewer an extremely wide and rich array of interpretation possibilities.


In AH MA, Tan Beng Tian picks up the puppet Ah Ma once again, and we are shown clips of Beng Tian performing with the same puppet many years ago. The performance invites us to dream of an possibly inevitable but hopefully unforeseeable future – The Finger Players has closed down, and Tan Beng Tian has sent the puppet Ah Ma to a museum for archival, but upon conversations with Ah Ma, she starts changing her mind and instead decides to steal Ah Ma back. This then becomes the base from which the story unfolds, inviting us to reflect upon conversations of why we archive, and what leagy means. Tan Beng Tian takes the stage again with Ah Ma, and her virtuosity as a theatre veteran is unrivalled. She expertly exudes the affection and worry a puppeteer has for the puppet, and her performance had restrain, but was still deeply felt, tugging at our heartstrings even more. At the end of the show, the Director projects the audience members live on screen, and there is a collective realization – that POS@126 was an effort to let audiences development feelings for these puppets, through their past and present lives. At the end of the performance, I overhear an audience near me turning to the puppet and saying “Bye bye, Ah Ma!”


And so the audiences had a revelation: we were not just invited as guests— in fact, both Myra and Ellison did not want us to be simply passers-by and spectators— they hoped that the audience could also play a part in each puppet’s life journey.


The Finger Players turned ONE-TWO-SIX Cairnhill Art Centre into a theater space. We were not just there as participants, but also as witnesses: we all had a part to play in the puppets’ lives and afterlives, and we were also roped in to create the future of The Finger Players. Before leaving the art centre, Ellison Tan urged the audience to fill in feedback forms, because this is a requirement by the National Arts Council (as one of the KPIs of the company). A theatre company requires the support and help of society as a whole, and as an audience, it was evident in POS@126 that while these hand puppets may have originated from 126 Cairnhill Road, the future of puppet theater is, in fact, in the hands of each and every audience members.



Performance watched: 9th November 2022, 8pm at Cairnhill Art Centre

Presented by The Finger Players






Image(s) courtesy of The Finger Players. Photos by Tuckys Photography



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