Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Silly Little Girl & The Funny Old Tree

The script which I had read so long ago was nothing like what I've seen today at the Ang Mo Kio Community Centre. I had imagined a monologue kind of performance with spotlight shining on the sole speaker in a sea of darkness. But the performance put up by class 3D was rather...unique.

Everyone wore simple costumes and had mussed-up hair and dramatic make-up. The bull-dozers were actually people dressed in neon-orange construction worker suits and dark sunglasses. There were virtually zero props except for a chair or two. The "Tree" consisted of several people in black with stripes of green cloth stuck randomly around their bodies and had their faces and arms painted with army camouflage paint.

The tale started with four travellers travelling through a forest when they came across four different threats, a thorny bush,a volcano, a cemetary & a waterfall. Then the entire story changed with they spoke about how one story is linked to another. And the scene switched to the present one about an old, old tree that had leaves at the bottom instead of the top. And like humans, the Tree is funny when old.

The Tree finally spoke to the Girl who decided to teach it how to sing. Which she demonstrated with an excerpt from the evergreen love song, The Moon Represents My Heart by the late Teresa Teng. That part sent a wave of goosebumps through the audience. Si Wen especially.
Then the Tree taught the Girl to dance. They did a medley of dances, from swaying side to side to something probably inspired by the universal Chicken Dance. It was considerably one of the light-hearted moments of the play.

In the end, the "Tree" was uprooted, moved, transplanted into the Botanical Gardens. But the play ended with the question of whether the girl seemed happy to you.

I liked the part where one girl robotically walks out chanting "I'm late. The Tree is blocking the road. The road should be widened" kind of thing. Then one by one, more people join her, chanting the same complaining phrase promoting industralization which each one had, like a mantra. With a low hum of mixed words, it felt like one was trapped within the concrete jungle where you could hear everyone murmur to themselvse and yet catch snatches of this and that all the time. But in the end, everyone came to the same conclusion - The tree must be cut down.

You'll have to be blind not to catch the deep meaning behind the tale. Although I knew what was the theme, I can't quite put it into words exactly. There are several meanings to the play.

1] The part when people gather at oa particular corner of the stage and form frozen abstract pictures before chanting something like "Taller Buildings!", "Bigger Playgrounds!" or "Wider Roads". I noticed that all of them had something to do with man-made objects. All of the different frozen pictures dynamically change with each phrase but only the Tree which sits right smack in the middle, remains the same.
And that during the ending when the Tree had been shifted to the Botanical Gardens [Another man-made place], someone asks if the Tree is happy while the other replied with "What kind of question is that?" Does this mean that Trees aren't worth bothering about as they are after all, mute? And does this signify that we are taking nature for granted in the world of our concrete jungle?

2]"Trees are like humans. They are all so funny when they're old!" So when the Tree is tranplanted to the Botanical Gardens, isn't it a referance to when young adults tranferred their ageing parents to live in an Old Folks'Home? Where there are many old people like themselves? Like the elderly, the Tree is defenseless against younger, fitter people [Represented by Bulldozer in their bright flashy coversalls.]

We also had bonus performances, particularly one by Mr Gani himself. He sang acoustic, guitar in hand, about a song he wrote under five minutes while trapped in his stuffy room with the raindrops hitting against the windowpane. He was the vocalist, guitarist and sound effect all by himself. Rather a feat to remember, I say.