How can one bear to remember a traumatic memory, much less re-create it? Directed by Kuo Jian Hong, Blank Run is The Theatre Practice’s attempt at doing just that, and uses the memory of a sexual assault as their starting point for their exploration of the deep imprint it leaves on its victims.
At the centre of Blank Run is performer Gloria Ang, who also came up with the story concept. The only actor in the show, Gloria plays an unnamed woman who wakes up in an unfamiliar, dark room, forced to confront the memory of a sexual assault one step at a time. Utilizing a mix of physical theatre, video projection and sound design, the fragments of her fractured memory start coming together, and she is finally able to accept it and begin her process of healing.
Gloria Ang delivers an incredibly disturbing performance as the victim of the assault. At times violently writhing across the stage or rapidly scrubbing the floor as a point of view video recounting the fateful night plays behind her, at others taking a moment to enjoy the taste of an apple, a small smile creeping over her face while her eyes display only pain, Gloria manages to capture the complexity of consent in all its confusing emotions. There is a desperation to her actions as she initially attempts to hold the internal chaos together, failing as she is continually triggered by the smallest of effects, and even in her silence, paints a three dimensional portrait of the woman she plays through her erratic, yet deliberate bodywork. Even a more experienced actor would probably find this high energy, emotionally-charged work a challenge to perform, and for the young Gloria to have managed to pull off such a feat is a huge achievement in itself.
As central as Gloria is to the piece, her strong performance is also well supported by Blank Run’s technical elements. Kuo Jian Hong’s irregularly shaped metal frames resemble puzzle pieces, perhaps to represent the fragmented nature of the woman’s memory, and their odd form further creates an uncomfortable sense of the unfamiliar onstage. These frames also act as placeholders for rows of white blouses, providing a unique, constantly screen for Genevieve Peck’s projection design, as it displays ghostly, cryptic words that flash across the screen and urge Gloria’s character into action. Finally, Sandra Tay’s sound design shocks with its loudness, discomforting the audience with the sudden intrusion of an alarm clock, or assigning mood to the performance as we hear the sound of thunder and pelting rain, or simply little droplets fall as Gloria wrings out her laundry. Together, these form a multisensory, multifaceted performance that successfully creates a disturbing, strange atmosphere that completely gets under the audience’s skin, where one can practically feel a physical reaction to the performance onstage.
Its abstract form the perfect structure to stage the portrayal of a fragmented memory one is determined to erase, Blank Run is an immensely disturbing work brimming with raw emotion that does a fantastic job of portraying the complicated nature of trauma. Blank Run is a work that needed to be produced, and harrowing as it is, will leave you with a newfound understanding of the difficulty in coming to terms with traumatic memory from the searing bruises it will no doubt leave on its audiences.
Performance attended 18/8/17
When: Till 20th August, 3pm & 8pm
Where: The Practice Space, The Theatre Practice
Tickets for Blank Run available via SISTIC