Chinese Theatre Festival 2017: The wee Question Mark and the Nameless by The Theatre Practice (Review)
The 2017 Chinese Theatre Festival is back, and besides plenty of new, thought-provoking pieces of high art, The Theatre Practice always ensures that there’s something for everyone…even kids!
Enter The wee Question Mark and the Nameless, a fun-filled, interactive family musical and the latest iteration in the Wee Question Mark series. Written by Huang Suhuai and directed by Kuo Jianhong, The wee Question Mark reunites Question Mark (Gloria Ang Xiao Teng), Exclamation Mark (Windson Liong) and Comma (Ng Mun Poh) as they tackle the rather abstract topics of identity and perspective.
Filled with boundless energy, the three performers begin with a framing story, where they wish to perform and share a nameless author’s story. But along the way, they begin to wonder how said author can go through life without a name, and attempt to find a name for him. In the story itself, the cast reimagines the parable of the blind men and the elephant, and takes audiences on a fantastic journey to the colourful land of Patikilado, where a circus has rolled up with a beast no one has ever seen before – an elephant.
For a family musical, The wee Question Mark and the Nameless raises surprisingly complex existential themes that audience members will even be asking themselves long after leaving the theatre, yet presents these in an extremely simple and accessible way. Much like the character of Question Mark, the show encourages the audience to question their train of thought and pre-conceived notions. All three actors filled the show with a big heart, imbuing their character with a joie de vivre that really connected with the many kids in the audience as they interacted with them.
Chen Szu-Feng’s set design is a joy to behold: a huge facade of a circus big top, with multicoloured streamers hung from the ceilings. As the cast disappears behind the facade, lighting designer Lee Bee Bee’s round backlight transforms the translucent entrance to the big top into a screen for shadowplay, as the limited light allows just enough to illuminate the ‘parts’ of an elephant while creating an air of mystery with the surrounding darkness.
Julian Wong’s songs (who was also a one man band tour de force during the show) and Xiaohan’s lyrics are incredibly catchy. Closer to Mandarin pop songs than children’s songs, all three cast members spend the hour long show performing one high energy number after another, with an enthusiasm in their voice that easily infected the audience with their glee and simple but enjoyable choreography.
With a charming, talented cast, an addictive soundtrack and an intriguing storyline, The wee Question Mark and the Nameless is the family musical you never thought you needed that may just make you open up your mind and challenge your own perspectives on art and life itself.
Performance attended 5/8/17
The wee Question Mark and the Nameless plays at The Theatre Practice (54 Waterloo Street S187953) as part of the M1 Chinese Theatre Festival 2017 till 13th August. Tickets available here