P/M Day 1: Flexing Critical Muscle

posted 4 May 2018, 12:12 by Daniel Teo   [ updated 5 May 2018, 07:19 ]
P/M Workshop 1
The first Performance Making Workshop in session in the Centre 42 Meeting Room.

Day 1 Activities:
- Programme Introduction
- P/M Workshop 1
- SIFA Performance: Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower

Criticality quickly became the order of the day as Points of View (POV) 2018 began its nine-day programme.

At the opening session in the Centre 42 Black Box, Asian Dramaturgs’ Network Founding Director and Performance Writing Track (P/W) Facilitator Lim How Ngean was quick to raise criticality as essential to both performance writing and making: “Criticism can only occur when there is serious interrogation of the work... We want to unpack the performances we see, unpack even what we discuss and we’re thinking.”

On a related note, his co-director and Performance Making Track (P/M) Facilitator Charlene Rajendran advised the 30 participants to bring to the programme a “deep sense of curiosity”, which will allow them to ‘to dig into why a performance works or why it doesn’t work [and] also about the connected processes and people who go into the making of work, and later, the viewing of the work.”

“That kind of curiosity is playful but also serious. And it’s hard work, so please get enough sleep,” Rajendran said, drawing laughter from the room.

POV2018 Opening Session
The first session of POV 2018 in the Centre 42 Black Box.

Taking up the gauntlet, the participants promptly raised salient issues such as the role of the critic within the arts ecosystem, sustainability and longevity in the industry, and how to make one’s voice heard in a saturated environment. 

Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) Festival Director Gaurav Kripalani also spoke and fielded questions about the festival’s programming and commissioning processes.

The hard line of questions continued in the first P/M workshop in the Meeting Room, where the 20 P/M participants interrogated the opening SIFA performance 1984, which they had attended the week before.

Their task, set by Rajendran, was to identify a key concern as a young performance maker that had struck them from watching 1984, and to learn more the production as well as other stage adaptations of the George Orwell novel.

Many participants questioned the intentions of the work. Some felt the jarring lighting and sound design – which Lakshmana KP called “attacking aesthetics” – stole focus away from the original story’s commentary on state surveillance. Several participants wondered whether entertainment and shock value had been a precedent over provoking critical thought and discourse. Dominic Nah even went so far as to question what it means to provoke audiences in the first place.

Other concerns raised: Since this adaptation of 1984 had taken liberties with the original text, Tan Liting felt more should have been done to create nuanced female characters. Iwani Zoe Mawocha – hailing from Zimbabwe – was interested in the “veiling the political in the political”, or whether a political work from one country would retain relevance if staged in another country.

The workshop continued with the participants pairing off to discuss key struggles as performance makers*. 

"I thought that it was a really lovely energy in the room," Ethan Chia said commenting on the first workshop. "A good group of people who are incredibly opinionated, and gentle with that as well. And a keen sense of wanting to listen."

That evening, the participants adjourned to Victoria Theatre to watch another stage adaptation – Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower – for more fodder for critical discussion. The two POV Facilitators and ten POV participants were randomly selected from the group to sit onstage during the duration of the performance.

POV at Parable of the Sower
Several POV participants were seated in the wings onstage for Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

While the P/M group will have some time to develop their thoughts on the production for their second workshop this coming Sunday, some have had early reactions to the work:

Irfan Kasban said: "Parable of the Sower had a lot of heart and soul. Toshi was charismatic and her energy was infectious. The performance however lacked a cohesive physical stage vocabulary and was better experienced with eyes closed."

Shannen Tan was one of the few who were seated onstage for Parable of the Sower. However, she wasn't sure if there was additional value in being closer to the performers: "...I didn’t understand why I was sitting at the side on stage, because it felt redundant as the experience was still akin to sitting in the audience and watching them rather than participating on this shared stage."

Other P/M participants posted their responses on social media: Gabbi Wenyi Ayane posted, on her Instagram, "[I] forgot how beautiful many voices sound when they come together with so much heart and honesty." Zac Denver Lee posted a video review of Parable of the Sower on his YouTube channel.

The POV participants will be meeting Parable of the Sower's director Eric Ting in a dialogue session on Day 2.

*Rajendran requested for the group to avoid raising issues of funding and resources as part of the struggles of a young performance maker in this initial discussion.

Update (5 MAY 2018 11.00AM) - Minor corrections, and added more participant responses and the image of the Parable of the Sower stage.