Theatre review: Fun but too much going on in Rubber Girl On The Loose

(From left) Sarah Chaffey plays Antigone, while Darlane Litaay, Matthias Engler and Ghafir Akbar play the tyrant Creon in Rubber Girl On The Loose by Cake, for Esplanade Presents: The Studios.
(From left) Sarah Chaffey plays Antigone, while Darlane Litaay, Matthias Engler and Ghafir Akbar play the tyrant Creon in Rubber Girl On The Loose by Cake, for Esplanade Presents: The Studios.PHOTO: TUCKYS PHOTOGRAPHY

RUBBER GIRL ON THE LOOSE

Cake/Esplanade Presents: The Studios

Esplanade Theatre Studio, March 28


Rubber Girl On The Loose makes ancient Greek tragedy accessible through dance, drumming and contemporary dialogue.

The play is presented by Cake for the annual The Studios season of the Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay, and is the latest in writer-director Natalie Hennedige's productions inspired by ancient classics, following Electra (2016) and Medea (2017).

The source text for Rubber Girl On The Loose is Sophocles' play Antigone, a homage to democracy and set in the nation of Thebes. Hennedige's retelling is set in a school and underscores the tragedy of a system that refuses to respond to the needs of its people. Sophocles' tyrant Creon becomes a headmaster, a chorus of Theban elders becomes a powerless teacher (Masturah Oli). An armed sentry becomes a school prefect (Andrew Marko) who wields drumsticks similar to the percussion instruments Creon uses to communicate.

The tyrant is no cardboard villain. Three performers convey Creon's complexity and the immense power he wields over the system. Ghafir Akbar speaks Creon's lines, while Matthias Engler tunes the tension in each scene through percussion performance. Dancer Darlane Litaay is Creon's "body", communicating with the tyrant's defiant niece Antigone through dance. This silent performance is unfortunately overshadowed by the fact that the other two demand all the audience's attention. Ghafir is enthroned on the highest seat and his dialogue emphasised through multimedia; while Engler's gongs and cymbals consistently overwhelm Antigone herself. Dancer Sarah Chaffey's geometric movements only hold the spotlight when no Creon performs.

Rubber Girl On The Loose is tragicomic theatre of the absurd, moving from punchlines about Tiger Mums to deploying rubber bands small and large as instruments of destruction. It is fun but there is too much happening on stage for the audience to fully appreciate. A key plot point is the body of Antigone's brother, Polyneices (Nicholas Tee), left to rot at Creon's command. Unfortunately, this body is placed so near the audience that it is easily overlooked, rather than providing horrific undertones to the opening scenes. One notices it only when the actor rises and speaks.

Sophocles' play was written to remind Greeks of the danger of staying silent and handing over power to a single person. Rubber Girl On The Loose presents a greater tragedy: what happens when civil conflict cannot be resolved.

  • BOOK IT / RUBBER GIRL ON THE LOOSE

  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: March 30, 3 and 8pm; March 31, 3pm

    ADMISSION: $35 from esplanade.com or from Sistic (Call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: R18, nudity and mature themes

Hennedige is aware of current context, as extremist ideologies and xenophobia divide nations around the world, and rhetoric replaces dialogue. Creon's wife Eurydice (Amy J. Cheng), who refuses to rein her husband in, even wears the buttoned-up dress favoured by Melania Trump, First Lady of the United States.

No character is singled out for rebuke, all are complicit in the ruination. Creon wants Antigone's acceptance but the teen is too wrapped up in her tragedy to understand this. It was Creon's responsibility as the adult to make the first move towards reconciliation but like the jerky, repeated movements of the performers show at the end, all are trapped in the same rigid refusal to compromise.