Game to relive the past

Performers (from left) Ali Alasri, Darynn Wee and Hannan Barakbah lead improvisation in Are You Game?
Performers (from left) Ali Alasri, Darynn Wee and Hannan Barakbah lead improvisation in Are You Game? PHOTO: CENTRE 42

Memory, childhood games and meditations on the nature of art inspire this charming double-bill presented by theatre-makers from Singapore and Malaysia.

The first production, Sau(dara), was created by the Bhumi Collective and directed by its joint artistic director Soultari Amin Farid.

Four women from different artistic disciplines replay their memories of growing up in Singapore.

Are You Game?, directed by Malaysian theatre-maker Fasyali Fadzly, requires the audience to participate in call and response, and improvisation led by performers Ali Alasri, Darynn Wee and Hannan Barakbah.

Both works respond to another, older cross-Causeway collaboration called Three Children, which was written by Malaysian playwright Leow Puay Tin and presented in 1988 under the joint direction of TheatreWorks' artistic director Ong Keng Sen and Five Arts Centre's founder Krishen Jit.

Three Children was a memoir of growing up poor and Chinese in Malacca and pleased critics on both sides of the Causeway as an example of intercultural theatre that went beyond Western tropes and techniques.



    Centre 42 (Singapore) and Five Arts Centre (Kuala Lumpur)

    Centre 42 Black Box/Last Saturday

Following the non-linear narrative and episodic architecture of the 1988 piece, both Are You Game? and Sau(dara) have their performers sing children's songs, play schoolyard games and present their own youthful experiences in response to the older work.

This is perhaps a nod to the fact that Three Children was devised by the actors before reading the script, but also important because replication is not the goal here; response is.

Sau(dara), featuring Lyn Hanis, Suryana Norddin, Nurul Farahani, Syafiqah 'Adha Sallehin, presents the stand-off between traditions and expectation when women want to pursue artistic careers in defiance of what their families hoped for them, such as stable jobs and marriage.

Appropriately, the performers do this through their particular specialisations, Syafiqah through her accordion and Lyn through dance.

Are You Game? directly responds to a theatrical production with another work of obvious theatre. Viewers are privy to the devising process - perhaps staged, definitely comic as the actors play various roles armed with umbrellas and acrobatics - and also to an absurd interlude in which the actors discuss the semi-magical nature of the theatre.

How does a character written into a script enter the body of the performer?

All that is required is acceptance, as the actors demonstrate through mimicking one another's body language.

It was a neat illustration of how stories live on as long as one person finds them interesting and worthwhile enough to make them her own.

That is what a classic work is, something so intriguing that one is driven to recreate it in one's own artistic language, just like Are You Game? and Sau(dara).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2019, with the headline 'Game to relive the past'. Print Edition | Subscribe