Friday, April 24, 2015

Show Time - Off Centre

Watched my third The Studios: fifty play with Playmates today.

Haresh Sharma's Off Centre focuses on two mentally ill patients, Vinod and Saloma, who are struggling with recovery and reintegrating into society. The play highlights the stigma that mental patients face from strangers and even from their family and friends.

Both lead actors demonstrated the fear, sadness, anger and isolation their characters experienced in between acting out their lines and narrating the story and the characters' inner thoughts to the audience. To make a seamless switch between narrator and character must be a challenge and both actors rose to the occasion for the most part.

Off Centre

The supporting actors periodically appeared on stage with head masks that conveyed the inner demons that the leads faced. For Saloma, the voices in her head took the form of animal-shaped heads. For Vinod, his monsters all had cruel looking faces. Vinod's inner demons actually reminded me of the iconic laughing man sculptures by China artist, Yue Minjun.

Yue Minjun's Laughing Man Sculptures

I appreciate the fact that the producer and director updated this staging with modern pop music. I thought that Coldplay's The Scientist and Fix You were apt melancholic songs with lyrics that relate to the situations when blasted.

For me, Siti Khalijah's (Saloma) finest moment during the play was her breakdown at the restaurant. When she started smacking herself and shouting randomly with tears in her eyes, my heart broke a little.

Ebi Shankara (Vinod) delivered some of the funniest lines in the play, proving much needed comedic reprieve from the play's dark subject matter. He also gamely bared his cellulite ridden ass during his final scene as he completely unraveled.

To be honest, it was not an easy play to watch, especially since it was 2 hours and 15 minutes long with no intermission. The audience gets no break from the characters' emotional turmoil and the experience can be draining. But then again, mentally ill patients get no release from the problems and emotional trauma that haunt them 24/7. Something to ponder over.

Off Centre
Event Date: Thu, 23 - Sun, 26 Apr 2015; Thu & Fri: 8pm; Sat: 3pm & 8pm; Sun: 3pm
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio

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