Toy Factory starts off their 2017 season with a bang: a restaging of their speculative play Prism, which received rave reviews when it first premiered in the early 2000s.
Prism features Apprentice star Firdaus Rahman as Aman, an Urban Redevelopment Board official tasked with evicting 33000 residents of “The Surrounding City”, the city’s oldest heritage as it faces demolition in the name of progress. Confronted with angry, despairing citizens, Aman comes face to face with his own ambivalence about the spiritual sacrifice for material gains.
At the press conference for Prism, we had a chance to talk to the cast and creative team and had a preview of the production to come. Being a speculative, sci-fi type work, the set’s main aim was to set up a conflict between man and nature, showing fragments of the doomed city and ambiguity in its status as the inner city or outside the city. Creative costumes designed by Tube Gallery (Monkey Goes West) also add to the believability of this dystopic setting of course, and from what we saw, it works to a T.
Director Rei Poh spoke about how much of his inspiration came from the Aboriginals in Melbourne, Australia, and how despite being the original inhabitants of the land, they’ve been forcibly removed and relegated to some of the lowest rungs of society.
When Goh Boon Teck was tasked to write the script over ten years ago, it was a period of great change, where iconic buildings such as the old National Library and National Theatre were being torn down, with no real reason given. Even now, this is still happening, with places like Bukit Brown Cemetery facing imminent doom. As just a ‘small theatre director’, it’s all he could do to make a play of the situation, and perhaps educate its audience about thinking deeper about the relation between, the people and the land, and what it means to be a first world country that has a history behind it.
Prism will also feature a talented cast, including but not limited to Alvin Chiam, Farah Ong and Trey Ho, along with rising stars Farez Najid, Lina Yu and Ching Shu Yi, who we last saw in The Second Breakfast Company’s Family and will be playing multiple roles in Prism. Speaking to her about the leap from small productions to a blockbuster one, Shu Yi explained that despite the steep learning curve, she was willing to take up the challenge and use all this new experience become a better actress. Of course it also helps that Toy Factory provided a very nurturing and fun environment, and was full of capable people to learn from.
Meanwhile even for the more experienced Farah and Farez, Prism is still very much a new experiences and comes with its share of challenges. Even with early morning rehearsals, the two are motivated by the compelling script and their characters. On the intensity of the rehearsals, Farez said: “Prism doesn’t have an intermission, and playing more than one character, we need to be able to switch characters really fast.”
And why should people watch Prism then? The two of them smile and comment on the amazing cast and the great script. Said Farah: “It’s a really well written script, I think people will be able to relate to the issues that it brings up.”
Prism is set to be one of the boldest, unique and most exciting productions Singapore has seen in recent years. With seemingly non-stop progress and a landscape that’s changed so much in the last ten years, Prism remains an extremely relevant play, and urges audience members to cherish our heritage and hopefully, preserve what history we have left.
Prism plays at the Drama Centre Theatre from 23 Feb-5 March. Tickets available from SISTIC