Based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel Crime and Punishment, David Gaitan’s Leakage(s) and Anticoagulants is a biting psychological exploration on rational egotism and morality. A young intellectual, Raskolnikov (Tan Weiying), steals from and murders an unscrupulous old pawnbroker and due to a series of coincidences, manages to escape undetected. To Raskolnikov, this crime is motivated not by anything quite as plebeian as greed or desperation, but instead hinges on her theory that there are two categories of people in the world: ordinary and extraordinary. Comparing herself to Isaac Newton and other great minds, she believes that these extraordinary people have permission to transcend morality and have the right to commit crimes without suffering any repercussions if it serves the greater good.
In the aftermath of this crime, Raskolnikov falls into a feverish state, obsessing over the crime and her guilt and rejecting all offers of help from her old friend, Razumihin (Namaha Mazoomdar). Motivated by ego, she inserts herself into the investigation by befriending the Court Official Zamiotva (Mathilde Bagein) and Chief Inspector Porfiri (Vanessa Wu), who grow increasingly suspicious of the unstable young woman. As her initial conviction of her superior status slowly begins to fray, Raskolnikov becomes increasingly unstable: does she confess and suffer due punishment for her crime? Or does she allow herself to keep silent and evade prosecution?
The scene is set as audience members are led into the Drama Centre Black Box through the back entrance, rather than the traditional front door. A giant structure looms in the darkness, furthering the sense of disorientation. As the play begins and the lights go on, a monolithic two storey apartment building appears and the unorthodox entrance becomes clear. Director Alberto Lopez’s set is massive, spilling out beyond the regular black box boundary into the entrance area, incorporating the existing staircase to allow access to the entire structure. It’s an impressive and clever piece of set design, with multiple spaces, enclaves, levels and exits that offer an opportunity for interesting staging choices.
Lopez takes full advantage of this, especially during the excellent movement segments- no surprise considering his background in movement and dance. Functioning as the inner whispers of Raskolnikov’s head, the eight-actor chorus (Regina Foo, Wong Yunjie, Sonia Kwek, Teo Dawn, Uma Katju, Shirley Tan, Henrik Cheng and Desmond Soh) trail behind her – alternately tormenting and advising her. Their physicality is inhuman and unnatural – twisting, rolling and shuffling as they stack and slot themselves around each other like a demented puzzle. Their influence by Raskolnikov is increasingly apparent as they physically manipulate her into different positions and scenarios, pushing her around on tables and chairs like a puppet. In one particularly memorable sequence, the chorus functions as an unstoppable propelling force, bodily carrying her across the stage towards the murder even as she muses on the inevitability of her actions.
Leakage(s) and Anticoagulants is filled with visceral images like this. As Mikolai, the hapless painter wrongfully accused on the murder, Saran Jith is tasked with creating two pieces of art during the show- both depicting the brutal murder of the old pawnbroker. The creation of the second artwork serves as one of the most visually arresting moments of the play. Eschewing the paint roller used in the first piece, Jith uses his bare hands to paint in perfect primal symmetry as the image of a face- eyes stretched open and mouth widened in a garish scream slowly takes form. A huge violent splash of yellow on the forehead finishes this gruesome painting. Jith’s hands remain stained with paint for the rest of the show. The painting haunts and follows Raskolnikov, looming threateningly behind her as she attempts to convince Razumihim of Mikolai’s guilt and finally, as the location of her final punishment.
Verbose, packed with long chunks of exposition and grappling with big ideas and philosophies, Gaitan’s text, as translated by Julian Mesri, is not a forgiving script and huge kudos goes to the graduating class for stepping up to the challenging and acquitting themselves so admirably. Tan Weiying gives an electric performance as the titular character Raskolnikov, her wiry frame almost vibrating with frenetic energy as she alternates between the confident swagger and casual contempt of a woman convinced of her intellectual superiority, and nervous twitching and feverish demeanour as she desperately attempting to assert control over her hallucinations.
Other standouts include Mathilde Bagein as the court official Zamiotova who provides much-needed moments of lightness with her wry humour and deadpan asides and Vanessa Wu’s strong performance as Porfiri – whose stately and grounded performance provided a nice contrast against Raskolnikov’s youthful arrogance. Rounding out the main cast include Namaha Mazoomdar’s sweet and earnest Razumihin, Isabelle Low’s idealistic Sonia and Saran Jith’s Mikolai- responsible for both the evening’s two paintings and a particularly lovely ritual movement sequence during the scene of his trial.
At slightly over 2 hours with no intermission and packed tight with high tension confrontation after confrontation, the piece could have benefitted from a tighter edit- both in terms of pacing and the sheer number of stylistic choices made. There were plenty of interesting motifs introduced but it was frustrating that many were not properly realized and explored. The eight bald heads of Raskolnikov’s inner chorus presents a visually arresting and provocative image, but appear to serve no further artistic purpose other than as a demonstration of the actors’ dedication. Similarly, the various apparitions covered in thin black veils appear as tangible manifestations of Raskolnikov’s insanity but are quickly forgotten in favour for sequences where her eight inner-voices bicker relentlessly amongst each other. It was also a pity that the impressive and painstakingly constructed second floor of the set was not used much, aside from the short murder sequence and a small bit with the coroner.
Regardless of these minor quibbles, Leakage(s) and Anticoagulants is an intelligent and unflinching examination of morality and provides an excellent showcase of the abilities of the graduating batch of ITI students, who possessed a strong sense of camaraderie onstage. The ease of which the cast handled themselves and the tricky script is a demonstration on the strength of the ITI training program and the vast array of skills they have acquired over the last three years. We wait with great anticipation to see what new projects these new graduates embark on next and hope the bonds forged during this period will lead to further collaborations between this talented batch of artists.
By Sim Xinyi for Bakchormeeboy
Performance attended 7/9/17
Leakage(s) and Anticoagulants plays at the Drama Centre Black Boxtill 9th September. Tickets available from Peatix
Leakage(s) and Anticoagulants
When: Till 9th September, 8pm (8th & 9th Sep), 3pm (9th Sep)
Where: Drama Centre Black Box