Review: The Page on Stage – A Performance of Words from the stories of Baratham, Cheong, Jeyaretnam and Tay
There’s magic in words as Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai and Jun Vinh Teoh bring to life classic characters from beloved stories from the 90s.
There are some books you read as you’re growing up that you never forget. For producer Tan Kheng Hua, they include works from 90s writers Gopal Baratham, Colin Cheong, Philip Jeyaretnam and Simon Tay, all of whom are proudly showcased in The Page On Stage.
Adapted and directed by Brendon Fernandez, The Page on Stage takes characters from the four abovementioned local authors’ best loved stories and brings them to life with the help of actors Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai and Jun Vinh Teoh in a series of duologues. Taking place in the intimate space of the back of the Arts House Chamber, audience members experience these characters and stories up close and personal. Brandon acts as our host, introducing each story and setting the scene before each segment, while playing an appropriate selection of 90s club tunes in between from a cellphone and portable speaker. There’s something incredibly charming about the setup in its determination to completely immerse audiences in the time period, complete with vintage costumes and even providing free snacks at the door, each item carefully chosen to match each story.
And with The Page on Stage, Kheng Hua has discovered two incredibly capable actors to take on the many roles the production demands of them. In the first segment, Colin Cheong’s Polite Fiction, Jun Vinh Teoh displays an incredibly clear vocal delivery, bringing an air of gravitas to lengthy monologues in playing a confident motivational speaker. In playing a demure Japanese woman, Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai gets the accent just right, helping make the scene believable and creating strong sexual tension between the two characters.
In the second segment, Simon Tay’s My Cousin Tim and My Grandfather Tim was a fun change of pace, even if it begins with a funeral. Jun does well to embody the everyman, making his character startlingly relatable as he finds himself at the mercy of his odd cousin and grandfather, both played to entertaining contrast by an infectiously energetic Rebekah. Rebekah grasps both of these characters’ mannerisms and physicality quickly in her performance, nailing both dramatic and comic timings in the way she reveals punchlines and rapid fire, enthusiastic delivery.
Both Rebekah and Jun’s success can also be attributed to strong onstage chemistry, best seen in the third segment, Gopal Baratham’s Love Letter. Baratham’s intellectual language is difficult and meandering, easily able to trip up somebody performing them. But in the hands of Rebekah and Jun, they make it easy to follow as they weave it into comprehensible poetry. In playing two clandestine lovers who flirt with their witticisms, there’s a believable charm that cuts through the unnaturalness of the language and makes the segment work, making us actively root for these characters as we’re brought on an emotional rollercoaster from sappy meet cute to crushing tragedy, all in the span of fifteen minutes.
In the final segment, the duo performed an adaptation of Philip Jeyaretnam’s Abraham’s Promise. Despite a story that jumps between timelines and characters, both actors were able to effectively differentiate between them. This is Rebekah’s crowning moment of glory, as she plays not one but three characters within quick succession of each other, ranging from an aged Latin tutor to a young girl, and encapsulates their every emotion with both her face and her body.
The Page On Stage is a welcome surprise at the Arts House’s inaugural Textures festival, elevating the literary medium to new heights with strong performances that breathe new life into these dated but timeless and universal tales. A step up from simply doing a reading, this was an incredibly enjoyable evening spent in the company of these familiar characters brought to life. A success in every way, one now feels completely compelled to pick up one of these collections and spend an afternoon rediscovering these incredible authors’ other works.
Performance attended 9/3/18
The Page On Stage plays as part of Textures from 9th – 11th March. Tickets available from Peatix.