By Dawn Teo
Staging an original work is a risk, more so in Singapore than anywhere else because the theatre-going crowd is one that is hard to please, with a taste for something international or essentially classic. But we’re forgetting that that’s the paying crowd; there’s a growing group of supporters who would watch anything and everything, if only to show some love for Singapore theatre makers and shakers.
Taking a stab in the dark – no pun intended, Dark Matter Theatrics made a bold debut at The Substation with its own original work. And it was a pleasantly brilliant surprise. The one-man show A Twisted Kingdom was mesmerising, touching and honest in its telling of the story of a Fool who tries to save a kidnapped prince.
The archetype of a “Fool” was broken down to reveal a haunting past that was never forgotten; the Fool was not always optimistic, he is misunderstood.
The audience is greeted with a child’s room. It’s ordinary – stuffed toys on the bed and a wardrobe in the corner, which led some to feel that the room should have been staged with more symbolism. Personally, I liked the subtlety of that room as its normalcy brought out nuances of the “everyday” within the script.
Written by Christopher Fok, the style was light and it was easy to listen to him. But the issues tackled were heavy, from pedophilia to child-peddling, self-inflicted harm and the lack of empathy in society. Humour and the lilt of poetry in the lines teased the themes out slowly and tied everything together, while keeping it real. Multiple perspectives were offered through one person’s monologue, which came to life well with direction and acting.
With thorough use of space and clever use of props (a wardrobe as a doorway and a tie for a noose, among other things), director Marcia Annelise Vanderstraaten straddled the two dimensions of reality and fantasy effectively. She eased us in with words then jolted our imaginations, which made it less alienating.
And as The Fool, Lian Sutton managed to capture the charming sense of humour of the classic archetypal figure while juggling the cruel, tortured retelling of his memories. Though dramatic at times, he was sincere. Even though it started shaky, kudos to Sutton for keeping the energy up and constantly driving the play forward – making it entertaining and impressionable. The only gripe of the night was that I could hear exactly what Timbre was playing that night, which disturbed the magic in the 75 minutes we had with play. Oh well.
Dark Matter Theatrics reminded me again of just how powerful theatre can be. If you’re one who loves playing with fire and lingering on the edges of the dark matters of life, then this is one theatre company that you want to watch.
Images credit: Dark Matter Theatrics