Theatre review: OneTwoSix drags but paints an evocative picture of loneliness

Light, sound and space design combine to create a visual and aural feast in OneTwoSix, an atmospheric performance-installation by design collective Index.

While the production is thoughtful and measured, and occasionally very beautiful, it doesn't always hold the attention during its 80-minute run.

The show features a single character (played by The Finger Players' co-founder Ong Kian Sin), who goes about mundane tasks such as making a drink and reading the newspaper.

But something is not quite right, as he pens a letter he does not send, and can never seem to open a mysterious door.

Using a network of stacked storage boxes filled with old objects such as a metal fan and a transistor radio, spatial designer Lim Wei Ling creates a home that is both neat and cluttered, and possibly riddled with secrets.

Helped by Lim Wei Ling's sensitive lighting, its construction recalls the cross-section of a block of public flats, but may equally suggest the interior headspace of a lonely man.

Sound designer Darren Ng works his usual magic in evocative soundscapes, with elements ranging from the ringing of a bicycle bell to public train announcements. He introduces a hellish element to heartland living when he cranks everyday sounds up to 11. In his hands, a thud of a glass mug sounds both like a dropped anvil and an irregular heartbeat.

While the visual and sound design is admittedly sophisticated, there is a lot of repetition and long stretches of nothing happening - Ong sleeping, for example. No wonder a good deal of fidgeting and throat-clearing takes place in the audience.

It takes its time, but OneTwoSix is a tender exploration of love and loneliness.

In a particularly beautiful scene, Ong finds a match for items that have lost their companions, creating combinations that fit yet clash awkwardly, such as a key and a combination lock.

Spare yet effective, moments like these invest the production with a sense of longing and poetry.

nabilahs@sph.com.sg

BOOK IT

OneTwoSix

Where: Level 3, National Library, Drama Centre Black Box

When: Tonight and tomorrow, 8pm

Admission: By donation only, check for tickets released at the door at 7.45pm

Info: www.facebook.com/Fingerplayers