Patchwork of scenes a scrappy showcase for these young theatremakers.
What is love if not a series of chemical reactions sending information to the brain? That’s the question at the heart of Love & Information, as Edith Podesta leads the latest batch of Young & Wild graduates in a brand new production of Caryl Churchill’s experimental work.
As with any theatre training programme, the primary purpose of the graduating production is to show off what the graduates have learnt, giving each one a chance in the spotlight. In many ways, Love & Information is an ideal vehicle for that, given that it comprises only of a series of scenes, no stage directions, and lines are not allocated to specific characters. The possibilities are endless for a cast of any size, and much of the work comes down to the creatives deciding on the staging and context for each scene, with a play that is less a play than it is a toolkit for devising.
Because of the nature of the production, Love & Information does not adhere to any set or specific storyline. The scenes are non-sequitur, and it is up to audiences to decide for themselves how to interpret what just happened on stage. To top it all off, with each scene lasting a matter of minutes at most, it feels tailored for the modern TikTok-obsessed generation. As such, much like its title suggests, sitting through the production can feel like being bombarded with information, with each scene an inconclusive, micro-play that leaves us on cliffhanger after cliffhanger.
This whirlwind of scenes is a barrage of lines and characters, and to see the 15 young cast members cycle through these is impressive in its own way, especially with the need to quickly change costumes and rapidly shift from one role to another. While not all the scenes are equal in terms of memorability or impact, there is enough variety and creativity that goes into them that most audience members will be able to resonate with at least one.
Right from the beginning, we’re introduced to a bachelorette party in a strip club, portrayed through two elevated structures where several of the male cast members are dressed in leather jackets and pants, boldly and confidently gyrating to the bass-heavy beats – it’s not easy to flaunt one’s sexuality onstage, and props must be given to them for daring to bare it. The partygoers stand and cheer in a hollowed out section of the stage, creating an even greater height difference between them and the strippers, while Steve Kuek’s pink strobe lights only add to the heady effect, and seems to immerse us into the fever dream-like atmosphere the remainder of the play will take us on.
As the play speeds through its scenes, we catch glimpses and snatches of lives, both painfully realistic and at times, completely absurd. While on a date, a researcher goes into precise, horrifying detail about her work slicing open a chick’s brain (Rachel Linn Braberry is a standout, crisp and clear in her delivery, and steals most of the scenes she’s in). A child slaps another, and in retaliation, her mother slaps the other child’s father. An effeminate man and a Filipino woman ponder over various translations of ‘table’. A reclusive couple hide away in a room. A woman descends into mania when her date gifts her a red rose, while a schizophrenic patient levels with her shrink.
It would be pointless to list down every single scene that happens – most of them are transient flashes, like passing thoughts that are, by themselves, in want of a greater narrative. But perhaps what stands out most is how the cast have embraced the wayward script, and made it thoroughly their own, creating recurring characters to link otherwise unrelated scenes, and forge the semblance of a thematic through line for the broken narrative.
Through their Singaporean youth lens, cast members have imbued the British play with local flair, with characters ranging from army personnel to SQ girls, beer aunties to karang guni men. Having directed each other, there is a clear sense of ownership over the production that this batch of graduates possesses, and they step into each role confident, a sense of pride with each scene they perform, producing parodies of Michelangelo’s The Last Supper, surreal dream sequences where gold suited hosts introduce a bewildered civilian to her audience, or even quiet, affecting moments where couples reaffirm their love.
One could interpret how the production is all about how we live our lives reliant on information, as put through human error and emotion. Love & Information is all about evoking immediate, yet fleeting reactions and emotions in us all, in an attempt to celebrate the sheer infinitude of experiences that makes up life, and on a meta-theatrical level, how differently we can process the same words and information presented to us. But for all its flurry of scenes, for all the confusion it provokes, the power of Love & Information is simply in its role as a show that the graduates have found joy in producing. Information is nothing if not tempered by emotion and our humanity, as the graduates of Young & Wild 2021 have shown with their valiant interpretation of this script, their love for the theatre coming through onstage.
Photo Credit: Wild Rice
Love & Information ran from 9th to 12th September at Wild Rice @ Funan.