Everyday actions take centre stage in non-verbal performance

The Theatre Practice’s artistic director Kuo Jian Hong (far left), with her sister Okorn-Kuo Jing Hong (left) and their mother, Goh Lay Kuan.
The Theatre Practice’s artistic director Kuo Jian Hong (far left), with her sister Okorn-Kuo Jing Hong (left) and their mother, Goh Lay Kuan. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Actress Lok Meng Chue is learning how to lie down and get up from the floor with ease. "The unspoken word floating around is 'graceful', not flapping around like a beached whale," says the 63-year-old, laughing at her aching knees.

Lok and six other artists older than 50, including the 79-year-old dancer Goh Lay Kuan, are in the cast for the non-verbal performance The Ordinary And The Unspectacular.

It is inspired by everyday actions and movements. It is being presented from Aug 16 to 19 as part of The Theatre Practice's M1 Patch! A Theatre Festival Of Artful Play.

"I was bullied into this one," says Goh, holding her leg straight up, near her ear, a balletic movement. "It's just natural that if she," meaning her daughter, director Okorn-Kuo Jing Hong, "wants to do this kind of performance, she would approach me first."

Okorn-Kuo, 47, created a version of this production for students at Shenzhen University around the time reality television star Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016.

She also lives and works in Europe and was responding to the anti-immigrant rhetoric surrounding Brexit. "To me, what was very important at the time was: We need to come back to being human. What are the fundamentals, the basics of human life? It doesn't matter where we are or what we are, we all have kids, we have families, we go to work."

Soon after presenting the student production, she realised she wanted to focus on older bodies.

  • BOOK IT / THE ORDINARY AND THE UNSPECTACULAR

  • WHERE: Practice Space, 54 Waterloo Street

  • WHEN: Aug 16 and 17, 8pm; Aug 18, 3 and 8pm; Aug 19, 3pm

  • ADMISSION: $38 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

  • INFO: Non-verbal performance; go to www.practice.org.sg/en/m1patch for details

"A person who has been walking for 60 years moves differently from a person who is six or 16. The accumulation of repetition, of everyday things that we do - to me, there are a lot of stories."

She adds: "When do we take time to watch very simple things that occur around us all the time? In terms of the way we operate, it's completely task-driven, the pressure of getting things done. What happens in between?

"I hope that in this piece, the audience gets the time to take in things that might seem assumed or mundane."

The cast includes actors and artists May Wong, Julius Foo, Jalyn Han, Tang Chia Yu and Lim Chiong Ngian.

Foo, 53, is often seen in physical theatre. The Ordinary And The Unspectacular is a different challenge. There is playful experimentation, but not the rhythmic, dance-driven moves he last performed under the direction of Okorn-Kuo 20 years ago. "Our play now is to lie on the floor. It's body awareness," he says.

Goh adds: "It's play, but not play-play. It's a very big thing, playing around. You do it without too much judgment when you are young. You learn through playing."

Akshita Nanda


Highlights of M1 Patch! A Theatre Festival Of Artful Play


PHOTO: THE THEATRE PRACTICE

IMMORTALX (above)

What: Three teenage deities no longer fit in a contemporary world where people have lost faith in traditional beliefs. Originally staged by The Theatre Practice in 2007, this revival is directed by Kuo Jian Hong and rewritten by Singaporean playwright Su Chun Ying .

When: Aug 1 to 12, various timings. Aug 1 and 2, 3pm; Aug 3 and 10, 3 and 8pm; Aug 4, 5 and 12, 11am and 2pm; Aug 8, 3pm; Aug 9, 11.30am and 3pm; Aug 11, 11am and 3pm

Where: Practice Space, 54 Waterloo Street

Admission: $32 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Info: Performed in Mandarin with English surtitles. Go to www.practice.org.sg/en/m1patch


UTOPIAZOO

What: Award-winning Taiwanese troupe Flying Group Theatre uses puppetry, masks and shadow play to tell a family-friendly story about migration. Animals have to flee their valley after a calamity, but will they be accepted by residents in their new home? Written by playwright Chou Jung-shih.

When: Aug 22 to 26, 3pm; 10am show on Aug 23, 11am shows on Aug 25 and 26

Where: Practice Space, 54 Waterloo Street Admission: $32 from Sistic

Info: Performed in Mandarin with English surtitles


ARTIST FARM

What: Ten performers, directors and designers are "confined" to a space in The Theatre Practice's Waterloo Street home and challenged to spar creatively. Viewers can sit in on presentations and dialogues. Participants comprise Ang Xiao Teng, Ng Mun Poh, Hao Wei Kai, Irfan Kasban, Thong Pei Qin, Cloud Wang, Yeo Lyle, Alex Talamo, Steve Wilson-Alexander and the musician Ferry. The three-day programme is led by Kuo Jian Hong, artistic director of The Theatre Practice.

Where: The Theatre Practice Rehearsal Studio, 54 Waterloo Street When: Aug 24 to 26, 4pm daily

Admission: $38 (three-day ticket) from Sistic

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'Everyday actions take centre stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe