Journey of discovery through questions

(From far left) Chao Yi-Lan, Oliver Chong and Wang Ching-Chun in Blood & Rose Ensemble by Shakespeare's Wild Sisters Group. Crowd Lu's lively, idiosyncratic banter gave the show an element of fun. Singer-actor Sugie Phua (left) plays a wanderer with
Singer-actor Sugie Phua (left) plays a wanderer with a mid-life crisis while jazz vocalist Joanna Dong plays a food expert in I Came At Last To The Seas.PHOTO: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

REVIEW / THEATRE

I CAME AT LAST TO THE SEAS

The Theatre Practice

Esplanade Theatre/Last Saturday


In The Theatre Practice's production I Came At Last To The Seas at Esplanade Theatre last Saturday, questions such as "Where do we come from?" and "What does it mean to be 'Chinese'?" were brought to the fore.

The Chinese theatre production, part of this year's Huayi - Chinese Festival of Arts, was themed around identity and the journey of finding oneself and one's purpose.

It is the latest project from The Theatre Practice, Singapore's longest-standing professional bilingual theatre group, known for productions such as the musical Lao Jiu, and more experimental work such as last year's Blank Run production.

I Came At Last To The Seas focuses on questions rather than plot. There are no easy answers or neatly packaged morals here.

Rather, the production seems to invite a rumination about truth - the ones people hear from others and the ones people tell themselves.

The production's seven main characters, from vastly different backgrounds, provide various perspectives to this issue.

Among them is a blind traveller played by Taiwanese performer and drummer Huang Yu-ting; a food expert played by Singaporean jazz vocalist Joanna Dong; and a wanderer with a mid-life crisis played by Singaporean singer-actor Sugie Phua.

Woven into their interactions were several beautiful moments, such as one mesmerising sequence where characters climbed and descended from moving platforms, with multimedia silhouettes of themselves projected on a screen - frozen in time but for a second, then fading away.

The moment presented one's identity as transient, constantly shifting and impossible to pin down.

One feels for the characters searching for a sense of themselves. And in a later scene, when the characters introduce Chinese dishes on a bizarrely surreal variety show, there was a sadness watching them present a seemingly congruent image of cultural identity.

Perhaps the external face people present to the world merely glosses over much of the internal splits and tensions within their individual subjectivities.

And maybe arriving at finding out who one truly is is not the primary objective here.

Instead, it may be the process that matters most - the constant questioning and self-reflection that might finally give one meaning.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2018, with the headline 'Journey of discovery through questions'. Print Edition | Subscribe