Arts Review Singapore Theatre

★★★☆☆ Review: Two Pigeons Eating Leftovers at Holland Village Sushi Tei by A Mirage

A Mirage makes debut with dreamy, off-kilter take on human relationships and connectivity.

We live in the in-between period betwixt the socially distanced world of the pandemic, and the soon-to-come freedom of borders fully re-opening. It’s a strange place to find ourselves in, where time seems to stand still each day, uncertainty abound as we reminisce on pre-COVID years and remain cautiously optimistic about the future to come. How do we navigate this new normal?

Making their debut on the local theatre scene, new company A Mirage presents Two Pigeons Eating Leftovers at Holland Village Sushi Tei. Written and directed by Edward Eng, the play’s title is more metaphorical than literal, referencing a memory Edward had of being ‘caught’ eating leftover rice at Sushi Tei from years ago. Imagining that, it evokes a deer in headlights sensation, frozen in a moment in time from long ago. Yet, it can also represent the current state of affairs, as we’re left in a state of uncertainty – social graces have all but disappeared in the years of working from home and going full goblin mode, and we are but pigeons pecking at leftovers, hyper focused on the minutiae when there’s so much more to rediscover while easing out way back to normal.

Two Pigeons then, applies that feeling to its execution, playing in a small corner of Projector X: Riverside and leaning in fully to its pub theatre aesthetic to produce a surreal, dreamy, work filled with makeshift props and lighting, handheld videos, and bordering-on-absurdist language. It’s charmingly offbeat, and encapsulates a certain millennial style of guerrilla theatre that allows us to better suspend our disbelief, and endears us to all its strangeness.

Starring Shannen Tan and Victoria Chen, the play primarily surrounds itself around ideas of connection and connectivity, in terms of female friendship, and the dark, dangerous world of modern dating. The first ‘act’ sees Victoria playing the quirky ‘Joanne’ in a Van Gogh sweater and Pantone swatch tights, as she reminisces upon pre-pandemic life, recalling memories of a eating sushi on a picnic after going down a hidden path behind Dempsey Hill, reflecting on the beauty of late night jaunts to Sheng Siong, and even showcasing videos of her dog who ‘loves her family more than her’ (played by a very enthusiastically doggy Shannen, marking her territory and enjoying pets on the head). The content itself isn’t so much the focus, as much as the mood it creates – it aches with a nostalgia for peace and simplicity of a time gone by, quiet moments that seem close to extinction as our world becomes increasingly filled with noise and to-dos, and feels like a call for a return to those halcyon days.

On the other hand, the second segment of the play switches up the mood, as Shannen plays Joanne’s best friend, out on a date with a handsome man (played by Victoria, puppeteering a dress shirt on a pole, complete with a Korean heartthrob’s photo stuck atop it). Intended for audience members to consider the complex art of navigating of getting to know a stranger, the pair are thwarted by nosebleeds, differing views on religion, and finding almost nothing in common. Yet they somehow persevere, making it to a club and dancing the night away (before Shannen violently pukes outside of his field of vision), and the two even spend the night at his place, where the conversation continues at the crack of dawn.

It is here that things take a turn for the worse, as Shannen’s infatuation and vulnerable state turns to horror upon seeing something on his phone. Rushing to Joanne for help, the two sit in silence and eat oranges as the day breaks. This is not an awkward silence though, and it is as if the two share a telepathic, mutual understanding of each other, Joanne attending to Shannen’s needs, and simply being there for the sake of safety and calm.

As a playwright, Edward’s stream-of-consciousness style of writing is replete with poeticism in the unexpected and ordinary, hitting nostalgia paydirt when you least expect it. While the memories and experiences raised by both characters seem hyperspecific to a point where most people might not relate to it, they still manage to capture an overarching mood that transport us to wherever that place happens to be, washing over us with the help of the video footage. This is a gift that still needs to be honed – there are times it does indulge, and sinks us too deep, where it becomes difficult to see where exactly the play is going, or if there truly is a greater purpose to it all. As a result, the stream-of-consciousness style is a double-edged sword, resulting in a dreamy script that has no real direction, and comes across as unedited and an experiment more than a finished idea.

Still, knowing that theatre has the power to heal, Two Pigeons feels like the kind of performance you walk out of with an ache in your heart and a lightness in your step. This is a promising start for both playwright/director Edward and production company A Mirage, as a show that has the ability to take us to a specific mood with its low budget setting, highlighting the ability of its creative team to work wonders with the unexpected. Watching as Joanne loads her angelfish onto a Roomba, the sound of the tiny machine milling about aimlessly is all we’re left with, as we too wonder and wander what the future holds, and cling to the past, our friends and the little things in life as a bit of solace to guard against the fear of what’s still to come.

Photo Credit: Christopher Chee

Two Pigeons Eating Leftovers at Holland Village Sushi Tei ran from 18th to 22nd May 2022 at Projector X: Riverside. More information here

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