M1 Patch! 2018: Immortalx by The Theatre Practice (Review)

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The Theatre Practice kicks off the inaugural M1 Patch! Festival with a show about teenage immortals. 

The Theatre Practice’s brand new festival kicked off this week with their new, original production Immortalx. Based off traditional Chinese mythology, Immortalx is an action-comedy coming-of-age tale where three teenage deities try to find their place in a world they don’t quite fit into, a world where gods are forgotten and no longer necessary.

For the first time ever in The Theatre Practice’s history, the Practice Space utilises a donut seating to give audience a 360 degree view of its inventive set and performance structure. Directed by Kuo Jianhong and written by Su Chun Ying, Immortalx begins with the mythical Jade Emperor (Hao Wei Kai) showing off his credentials. showing how important it is to certify one’s self with a piece of paper. We’re then introduced to the other two guardians of the realms: Ne Zha Lao Shi and Meng Po, who owns a spa and whose grandmother taught her how to blend a tea of forgetfulness, based off the myth of the old woman who makes souls forget their past lives before reincarnation.

Immortalx then goes straight into the main narrative, set in a rather Hogwarts-like school, and an education system and school life that may be all too familiar to anyone who’s grown up in Singapore. We’re introduced to our three main protagonists – Poppy Chang (Frances Lee), Mysterious Aw (Windson Liong) and Ray Girl (Gloria Ang). All three characters are familiar archetypes one might find in a group – Poppy playing the clumsy comic relief character, Mysterious Aw as the ‘lost’ boy, constantly wondering and uncertain about what he is going to do with his life, and Ray Girl as the more serious one. Audience interaction is already present at this point in the show, as the three ‘students’ ponder aloud about the test they’re taking, prompting audience members to shout out responses.

What unfolds then is a classic story of good versus evil – Ne Zha (Ng Mun Poh) goes on a rampage as he becomes corrupted by powerlust, seeking to restore gods to their former glory by interfering with human life to show their power, causing  power shortages, MRT breakdowns, falling trees and ‘ponding’, in an attempt to make mortals believe again. To bring their faith back then, Ne Zha’s grand plan would be to appear as heroes when the gods returned to save humans from these plights. It’s then up to Poppy, Aw and Ray to save the day and show the world what being a good god really is all about.

The visuals of Immortalx are key to keeping the show feeling and looking fresh and new. Set designer Szu-Feng Chen and lighting designer Woo E-Hui’s visuals work well together to allow the show’s shadow puppets to be used to their full effect in representing the majesty and awe of mythical creatures, while a projection used effectively to showcase a riveting fight scene with a certain hero was certainly a highlight of the play, so look out for it.

In all, Immortalx perfectly encapsulates the M1 Patch! Festival’s theme of ‘artful play’, clearly bringing across a message of how great power comes with great responsibility, and how teenagehood can often feel like a literal battle against gods. While it did take some time for the characters to warm up to the audience and surroundings, once the actors hit their stride, they brought out a believable performance that had us rooting for them till the end. Working well as an ensemble, this was a well delivered, relatable storyline for anyone no matter their age. In speaking to director Jianhong after the show, she explained how as a big fan of sci-fi shows and superhero flicks, Immortalx then acted as TTP’s version of Marvel’s The Avengers, with a distinct Chinese twist. Theatre then becomes such a great platform to see the immediate effects this show has on audience members, and as one that deals with the struggles of school and the pains of growing up, no doubt spoke to and resonated strongly with the youthful, still school-going audience members.

Performance attended 1/8/18 (3pm)

Immortalx plays at The Practice Space  from 1st – 12th August 2018. Tickets available here. M1 Patch! A Theatre Festival of Artful Play runs from 1st – 31st August 2018. For more details and tickets, visit The Theatre Practice

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