Review: Walk Slowly 慢慢走 by RAW Moves
In our hectic lives, when was the last time you took a moment to really step back to see just where you are?
First showcased as a work in progress at RAW Moves’ RAWGround earlier this year, Walk Slowly has since been developed into a full scale piece. As the culmination to RAW Moves’ 2017 Season, the theme of ‘Clutter’ was brought to a close in this work’s exploration of what home means to each of the performers, bringing for them, a kind of clarity in experimenting with expressing their home life with inspired movements.
Even though the performance took place in the rather cold multipurpose studio, complete with clinical white walls and concrete floor, RAW Moves successfully transformed the space into one that felt rather homely, arranging the space into distinct areas with familiar domestic paraphernalia, such as a TV set, a mini-fridge, and even floral patterned curtains nicely bundled up in front of the glass windows, the smell of mothballs hitting you from the moment you step in and reminding us of home.
As the performance began, Patricia Toh, already standing in front of a fan, broke the initial silence by speaking into said fan, a bygone past time familiar to us as children. as we amused ourselves endlessly with how much we could manipulate our voices. As her ‘hellos’ became distorted by the whirring blades, they quickly formed a surreal soundscape, sounding almost like a plea to anyone out there to make contact with her. Later on, this loneliness would again emerge, as Patricia shifts from simple hellos to a full on rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Despite occupying the same performance space, the five performers never interact with each other throughout the duration of the piece, each very much caught up in their own narrative’s trajectory, sharing only objects from time to time.
Because it takes place in the domestic space, Walk Slowly also allowed multiple ‘mundane’ chores to be performed. When Neo Hong Chin first enters the space, she picks up a basket of laundry and begins folding it, carefully sorting the clothes by type all around her, while Ebelle Chong expertly peels and cuts an apple while playing Faye Wong’s “我愿意为你” before parking herself in front of the television to catch Chinese dramas, an act of pure joy that feels like Ebelle is completely immersed in her comfort zone. It is through the deliberate choice of showing these activities in isolation that highlights their almost ritualistic symbolism, allowing viewers to reflect on the tiny complexities inherent in these seemingly simple daily routines. In the post-show dialogue later on, we found out that the performers even visited each other’s homes during the rehearsal process, learning to understand each other’s private, domestic lives so often hidden away from the public eye and so specific to each individual.
Walk Slowly, almost by accident, also happens to concern itself heavily with motherhood and the burden a woman bears upon caring for her children. Jeryl Lee makes her appearance onstage throwing out rapid-fire requests to her mother to help her with tasks as mundane as switching on and off the lights, while Neo Hong Chin obscures her face with a length of the floral print curtain (a pattern she recalls her own mother picking out) as she barks familiar scoldings at children in her midst, almost as if she has become an invisible figure (she later on explains that this is a representation of her fear of turning into her mother). There is almost a sense of exhaustion and fatigue with the daily that emerges from the actions of the performers onstage, as Hong Chin lifts a thick stack of worksheets above her head while walking about the space, before allowing the fan to blow them out of her hands and completely burying Patricia Toh in them.
Yet it’s not all is doom, gloom and solitude in Walk Slowly. There’s a distinct sense of comfort that emerges from the confident and assured way the performers move. Ebelle Chong, in particular, has the most positive story arc, as she lifts her dress above her head in triumph, celebrating her own small joys and power as a mother. Matthew Goh methodically unpacks his backpack as he moves from space to space, an activity that reflects his own, personal sense of ‘home’ in the constant, trusty items he has in his backpack, from a trusty phone charger to his Batman toiletry bag, even finding a kind of familiarity in the smell of mothballs, as he scatters them from his bag at first, before learning to arrange them carefully in a single line. Jeryl Lee, in particular, created a hypnotic scene as she arranged rubber gloves filled with water amongst white-blue fairy lights strung on a clothes rack, before poking holes in each one, the sound of water leaking through creating a thoroughly surreal sight (we later learn this relates to her learning to incorporate a new routine of daily injections into her life, due to a recent medical issue).
Walk Slowly perfectly encapsulates RAW Moves’ keen sense of meaning through play, giving power to the mundane by imbuing it with deeply personal stories from its creators, and finding the necessary space to take a breather and reflect on the simpler things in life. Through Walk Slowly, one is temporarily freed from the hectic way we’ve entangled ourselves in a fast-paced life, while being an important, timely reminder to take time out every so often to walk a little slower, and appreciate all the multifaceted, often unnoticed beautiful details in the everyday.
Performance attended 5/10/17
Walk Slowly慢慢走 will be performed at the Goodman Arts Centre Multi-purpose Studios 1 and 2 till 7th October. Tickets available via Peatix