Passerby Projects’ latest production features a collaboration with Dream Bravely, with an original script by writer Sarah Howell, who also directed the piece that melds the mysteries of the internet with a mysterious death. In Search of Salt follows Gaya (Alison Wong), whose younger sister Sel passes a few months before the events of the play. Gaya begins to receive mysterious Facebook messages from her supposedly deceased sister, and with the help of a friend, she begins to unravel the truth behind the messages.
In Search of Salt played at Centre 42’s Black Box, featuring a theatre in-the-round setting, with audiences seated surrounding the stage, creating an immediately arresting and intimate setting. The play also made use of multimedia, projecting film footage of Gaya and her deceased sister Sel in conversation with each other between scenes, emphasising the strong bond between the sisters and creating a sense of loss and nostalgia for the audience. This also helped bring the play to life, endearing the sisters to the audience, particularly in footage that showed Sel’s final birthday before she dies, raising the atmosphere of grief in the theatre.
Although the film element was a key part of the piece, the acting was nothing to be sniffed at. The performance opened with a powerful monologue from Alison Wong as Gaya, who also had great chemistry between her other two co-actors – Ranice Tay as Stephy, Sel’s best friend, and Susie Penrice Tyrie as Gaya’s mother. Ranice Tay maintained her character’s shifty and awkward personality throughout the performance, leading the audience to suspect her involvement in creating the Facebook messages from ‘Sel’, keeping us intrigued and guessing all the way till the final scene.
Susie Penrice Tyrie’s acting in particular, was noteworthy for us. Susie’s performance was always real, for example, in a scene where she is preparing a meal, she drops a single long bean on the floor by accident, before absentmindedly picking it up and putting it into her mouth, an action that seems perfectly natural. Life is often taken for granted, and these small things seem insignificant most of the time, but by the time we realise it and try to fix what’s broken, it’s already too late. As Gaya and Sel’s mother, we really felt her indescribable sense of loss experienced through her performance, and her difficulty in coping with her grief. Gaya and her mother’s relationship is also obviously fractured, and left us feeling devastated at the damage the death has caused.
Despite a lengthy buildup and bumpy scene changes, In Search of Salt eventually found its rhythm and had a huge emotional payoff in the last tearful scenes, with characters finding solace in each other’s company in spite of loss and the mystery drawing to a close. By blurring the lines between the real and virtual worlds, In Search of Salt has successfully explored the way we relate to each other in the age of rampant social media, inexplicably desiring even scraps and digital footprints of a loved one, no matter how insignificant, just to hold on a bit longer.
Passerby Productions and Dream Bravely have created a moving play that appeals to the millennial generation, navigating a digitized world where we are constantly finding new ways to cope with loss. In Search of Salt reminded us that for all the leaps and bounds virtual reality makes, no amount of pixels can replace a person in real life, and to cherish people and moments while they’re still around. A job well done to the team behind the play, and we’re definitely looking forward to seeing what they come up with next!