Play leaves audience wanting

Michael Cheng (right) stars as Stony and Eng Kai Er is his daughter Leng Leng in Sleeping Naked.
Michael Cheng (right) stars as Stony and Eng Kai Er is his daughter Leng Leng in Sleeping Naked.PHOTO: TIMOTHY TAY

Sleeping Naked fails to address issues of sex versus spirituality, but its two actresses stand out

REVIEW / THEATRE

SLEEPING NAKED/In Source Theatre

Black Box, Centre 42/Thursday

In Sleeping Naked, a man confuses lack of sex with an abundance of spirituality.

Stony (Michael Cheng) decides to follow in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, who slept naked with young women to test his resistance to temptation. He leaves his wife Mei Man (Eleanor Tan) alone in the marital bedroom and shares their daughter Leng Leng's (Eng Kai Er) room.

  • BOOK IT / SLEEPING NAKED

  • WHERE: Black Box, Centre 42, 42 Waterloo Street

    WHEN: 3 and 8pm today

    ADMISSION: $30 from sleeping naked.peatix.com

    INFO: Go to www.insourcetheatre.com

Fifteen years later, Mei Man is frustrated by her sexless marriage and worried about her daughter's daddy issues. Stony remains oblivious of the effects of his behaviour on the women in his life. He is as ineffectual as the 105-minute play, which fails to address head-on the most important issues in the script.

Sleeping Naked is supposed to be about sex versus spirituality, but Stony never directly addresses the tension between his desires and his spiritual practice. He only quotes at length from his favourite texts.

This is in character for a man who follows orders rather than thinks for himself. It is still a cop-out, given the play's central idea and the scripted fact that as Leng Leng matures physically, her father sees sharing her bedroom as a test of his celibacy.

This obviously unhealthy idea fails to rouse the mother's protective instincts even as she spots her daughter researching sexual concerns online.

The staging could have lost some trimmings without sacrificing effect. The set by Hay Teow Kwang, who also did the lighting, has three spokes radiating screens. These are laboriously and unnecessarily rotated, perhaps to show the passage of time. Multimedia by Terence Lau includes videos and photography projected on the screens, but adds little to the atmosphere created and sustained by the actresses.

Cheng does his best with what he is given, but it is the actresses who stand out in this play written by In Source Theatre's founder Beverly Yuen and directed by Sanjay Gautam.

Tan is the smouldering star, on fire as a woman repressing her passions and anxiety. She bakes and devours cakes in the absence of sexual fulfilment and makes multi-layered sandwiches to feed her family.

Leng's confusion about appropriate physical contact in a family and growing awareness of her sexuality is expressed well by Eng, a dancer. She easily communicates the hyperactive energy of an immature 15-year-old teetering on the brink of sexual awareness, but also aware of the importance of child-like innocence in the family situation.

The play's standout moments are when the two actresses explore intimacy versus sex. Father and daughter cuddle and play and exclude the mother from their circle of trust. This drives a nail in the mother's heart and could also have been the foundation of a stronger work.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2016, with the headline 'Play leaves audience wanting'. Print Edition | Subscribe