After interviewing Stanley Seah, the director of Here And Beyond I began to conjure up images of the characters in my head. I was filled with anticipation and did not know what to expect; I simply could not imagine how an anthology of 12 different plots could be seamlessly adapted into one theatre production.
As the lights darkened in SOTA’ s drama theatre, the plot of the first story, The Tiger, came to life. The Tiger narrates the tale of heavily pregnant Fatima, who meets with a tiger as she takes a bath in the river. The set was artfully designed, fashioned after a wayang kulit puppet show, with the characters concealed behind a screen, the audience watching just their silhouettes.
The Shooting Ranch was quite the thought-provoking tale. Cynthia and her half-Asian, half-Caucasian daughter Anouk visit Cynthia’s friend Nancy in Nevada. Henry, Nancy’s husband, is a nasty, old-fashioned man who forbids his children from television and the internet. He doesn’t even allow his daughters to wear trendy clothes from the mall or lipstick, claiming they would look like “sluts”. He rules the house with an iron fist and even beats his children in a way that their teachers cannot see the red welts. Anouk tries to get Cynthia to do something; meanwhile, Nancy is too afraid to defend her children against their father. This gets the audience thinking – to what degree should we remain bystanders?
Visitors, a story about a female student, Hidayah, was also adapted brilliantly. Hidayah is a Singaporean student pursuing her studies in New York, a city that is known to be cosmopolitan, yet still cannot seem to digest diversity. When Hidayah introduces herself to her New Yorkers, she is met with apprehension and confusion.
On stage, the actors were strolling in slow motion, each pulling a luggage behind them. This section of the play is purely a monologue, and touches on experiences that are relatable to several Singaporeans, especially when Hidayah recounted that someone she met in New York assumed that Singapore a was part of China.
Personally, I felt that the adaption of The Judge was quite a theatrical masterpiece — it was dramatic and dark, depicting how the judge struggled with sentencing someone to death.
In this tale, the son of the judge asks him if sentencing the death penalty ever gets any easier. The judge then tells the audience that it does not, and reveals that he could not sleep after sentencing a particular offender to death. Suspense is built up effectively with the noose hanging above the offender’s head, swinging slightly as the judge reads out the sentence. To conclude this segment of the play, the noose dramatically falls to the floor and the lights on stage go out. The mood among the audience had become solemn and reflective.
Another noteworthy story in Here And Beyond is the tale of Gloria.
This segment, though light-hearted and humorous, raised a much deeper concern about the treatment of domestic helpers in Singapore. Gloria tells the story of a Filipino domestic helper who works in Singapore to feed her ten children back home. Gloria, though haunted by her own troubles in Quezon city, marvels at the everyday luxuries Singaporean kids enjoy (such as having more than enough food on the table). These are things her own children could only dream of. The way Gloria’s employers treat her draws close parallels to the way many Singaporean families treat their helpers. They are often blamed for situations that are beyond their control, while being expected to look after the children without stealing the spotlight from their mothers.
The cast put up a stellar performance that succeeded in being heartwarming and humorous in equal parts. Most of the cast members took on multiple roles across the 12 disparate plots, yet delivered each role flawlessly. The transition from one story to the next was also surprisingly smooth. Indeed, Here And Beyond truly represents the social fabric of the Singaporean society; each protagonist in every Singaporean story, each with their unique and diverse backgrounds, is what makes us whole.
Tickets to Here And Beyond are still available at www.sistic.com.sg. The production will run until 28 July 2018.
by Natalie Kwan