The dreams, fantasies and burdens that one often experiences are redoubled when you question the past and doubt the future. Reality versus the surreal, what exactly drives you between the waking world and everything surreal? Maybe it’s questioning about the essence of life, or maybe it’s making a new beginning for yourself by defeating the odds.
In Redoubled presented by the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT), the work of SDT’s Resident Choreographer, Jeffrey Tan, and guest choreographer, Kuik Swee Boon, make you experience the redoubling of your personal questions about life.
A white prop in the shape of a wedge on the left hand side feels out of place on a flat stage where nothing else is present. Darkness falls and all is gloomy, the audience is drawn into a haunting mood of a suspended swing that swings slowly back and forth, creaking in the eerie silence of a park, the shadow of a tree displayed by the lighting.
The laughter that once filled our childhood fills the entire Esplanade Theatre Studio, like an unceasing memory at the back of our minds as we are made to recall the childhood innocence we once possessed but is now long gone.
What’s life? Is it the surreal versus reality? Using the medium of film in the beginning of the performance, the audience is made to experience and question their life when they are taken into the mind of a solo male, tormented between hoping to retain while trying to forget the memories that haunt him.
Torn between the reality of the walking world and the realm of the surreal, coupled with the feelings of confusion, loss and fear, he trashes about in his dream. He relives the memory of a lost love: they tussle, they make-up again, then they lay in silence. Throughout it all, are either of them really there? Is either of them really in the relationship?
The intense feelings of confusion and fear linger in the air as he breathes deeply. A sense of serenity is felt, only to be torn apart by the want to hide in a cocoon, away from all the memories that still torment.
Voices in a foreign language from the minions of the surreal world throw endless questions at him, bringing him to the point where he feels as though suicide is the only way out.
“When you’re alone, you question just where you belong.” When you’re alone, you’re left without your loved ones and you’re only left with the aftertaste of what your childhood innocence once felt like. It is then he questions his place in the world: “Why am I here?”
Perhaps it is the ambiguity of life that makes him and us start anew, rising like from the depths of deep hurt and ongoing pain, or the questions about life that some of us are lucky enough to find while the rest of us drift endlessly.
“Keep walking”, a whispered voice says.
With our questions about life being intensely brought out in Jeffrey Tan’s Sometimes I Think I Remember, the audience was left breathing heavily while reminiscing on their past as well as present memories as they left the venue for a twenty-minute interval.
Miracles. Fantasies. Redoubling on the meaning of life was Kwik Swee Boon’s Pellucid, the second half of the performance after the interval.
Simplicity and being translucently clear was the main theme in Pellucid. Featuring a female, the audience is drawn into her fantasy of leading a plain, simple life through the clean, basic movements and easy-listening sounds of the piano.
She questions her life as she thinks. Caught in a fantasy of her own, she wakes up again and again as she is dragged away, possibly alluding to the difference between living in a fantasy and in reality.
The play on the use of lighting and shadows give the illusion of the times in life where there was light and darkness, when miracles and disappointments happened.
She’s handed a glass of water. Water cleanses, and this was the start as the dancers started ‘peeling away’ the tape and mats on the stage floor. As the layers of the ‘floor’ are being shed, it gives the audience the idea that we are reaching the core of what she is really looking for: what is the simplest thing in her life.
Love. That’s the simplest thing in her life, shown through a duet depicting the fantasy of love that she wants to live through. At the end, her ‘love’ drinks the water that she was handed before and she takes the one lone stage light as the last sound of a dial turning completes her journey.
While Redoubled was, the first half of the performance was perhaps more well-received by the audience as the message of Sometimes I Think I Remember brought out more intense feelings that left an impression; whereas Pellucid was a little more mellow with a message that was harder to grasp.
Still, the audience couldn’t help but be awed by a local company being capable of putting up an excellent showcase of technique, choreography, music, lighting and emotions in Redoubled.
Photos courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd.