Room to ponder the afterlife

Tan Hui Er and Christer Aplin in The Transition Room.
Tan Hui Er and Christer Aplin in The Transition Room.PHOTO: TOY FACTORY PRODUCTIONS

REVIEW / THEATRE

THE TRANSITION ROOM

Toy Factory Productions

Drama Centre Black Box/Last Saturday


While devising this production of The Transition Room, playwright-director Stanley Seah asked his team to research minimalism. The result is a play that indeed does more with less.

Repetitive scenes, sounds and patterns of light create the illusion that the Drama Centre Black Box is an infinite space divided into a series of waiting rooms. Protagonist Mike (Christer Aplin) wanders from room to room, seeking the truth of his afterlife.

Costumes come in shades of grey, as does the modular set of blocks - both designed by Vivien Lau - which transform into seats or tables as each scene requires.

The colours are soothing or menacing in turn, depending on the tone of Mike's encounters in each room.

  • BOOK IT / THE TRANSITION ROOM

    WHERE: Drama Centre Black Box, Level 5 National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street

    WHEN: Today, tomorrow and Saturday, 3pm; Wednesday to Friday, 3 and 8pm

    ADMISSION: $45 from bit.ly/2TGXSxL

    INFO: www.toyfactory.com.sg

Performers Kaykay Nizam, Tan Hui Er, Victoria Chen, Jazmine Monaz and Marc Valentine Chia switch from beatific to brutal, keeping both audience and Mike off balance.

Perhaps Mike is moving through the circles of Hell or Purgatory, as Dante described, or perhaps it is all in his mind, as Asian philosophies suggest. It is up to the audience to decide since the play is not going to provide any answers, as the performers admit sympathetically, breaking the fourth wall.

Inspired by Seah's childhood fear of death and dissolution, The Transition Room is not as immediately appealing as last October's Watching, his other play about the eerie gloom of liminal spaces, both real and metaphorical.

In Watching, odd things happened as the protagonist was waiting for national service to begin and the audience knew there would be a happy ending.

But in The Transition Room, the odd things that happen to Mike pluck at a deeply hidden human fear of what comes after death. Everyone Mike encounters seems to be in on a huge joke and Mike is worried he is the punchline.

The big questions of human existence come up - Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? - only to be discarded when Mike has a real chance to get them answered.

After all, what people really want is not a destination but a continuing journey. And, as it turned out, Mike's journey is also the audience's, to stay captive in a room until the lights come on, signalling that it was time to move on to the next thing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2019, with the headline 'Room to ponder the afterlife'. Print Edition | Subscribe