Playful bites of theatre at 1 Table 2 Chairs Experimental Series

Scott Sneddon and Gloria Ang Xiao Teng with Inch Chua (background) in Shark Tag.
Scott Sneddon and Gloria Ang Xiao Teng with Inch Chua (background) in Shark Tag.PHOTO: THE THEATRE PRACTICE



The Theatre Practice/M1 Chinese Theatre Festival

The Theatre Practice Rehearsal Studio/ Last Friday

In a week crowded by big-budget festivals and epic theatrical spectacles on the street and on the main stages, the minimalist format of the 1 Table 2 Chairs Experimental Series was a refreshing change.

While stilt-walkers and laser beams thrilled the crowd at the Singapore Night Festival outside, while the Singapore International Festival of Arts featured international stars at the nearby School of the Arts, this project at the M1 Chinese Theatre Festival unapologetically offered fresh theatre, still raw, to curious viewers.

In a cream-and-wood rehearsal studio in Waterloo Street, nine performers presented three 20-minute plays that resulted from around 20 hours of "jamming" with each other under the guidance of The Theatre Practice's Kuo Jian Hong.

The project allows the performers at most one table and two chairs. Last year, much of the experiment was led by Liu Xiaoyi and focused on tortuously slow physical movements, turning the performance at Centre 42 into a living gallery.

This year was exuberantly athletic. In the first play, FYVP - For Your Viewing Pleasure - actress Leonie Sarah Bruckner responded to her own live-recorded image, trying to escape or entice the projections made on a table, a chair and her own white-clad body. The eye was constantly tricked into viewing the live footage rather than the actress' runs, jumps and rolls.

It was almost a shock to realise that two others were also essential parts of the performance - cameraman Yusri "Shaggy" Sapari and the hidden Thong Pei Qin, an unseen "director" calling out instructions for Bruckner to respond to non-verbally. Viewers were led to consider their own roles as spectators, consumers and unseen directors of multimedia.

The second play, Triangle, was an ecstatic exploration of physical theatre. Ng Mun Poh, Chiu Mi-Chen and Goh Shou-Yi performed fluid contortions. Sometimes they balanced precariously on the edge of chairs, sometimes they formed shapes with one another's bodies. Using exclamations, sighs and knocking on wood, they created a sketch that examined the possibilities of the body - playful skinship, intimacy and even horror.

Shark Tag had guitarist Inch Chua offering a live soundtrack as performers Gloria Ang Xiao Teng and Scott Sneddon relived the highs and lows of an affair. Chua plucked single chords to denote anticipation and initial flirting and desperate crescendos during love-making and a lover's quarrel. The table was used as a cage, sometimes protective, sometimes imprisoning her.

At the end, all three crowded between the four upturned legs, Chua playing a hopeful melody, in tune with the idea that the frame provided by this experimental series could lead to something even better in future.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2017, with the headline 'Playful bites of theatre'. Print Edition | Subscribe