Arts Review Theatre

★★★☆☆ Review: When cloud catches colours by Drama Box

Holding out hope for a rainbow after the storm.

CategoryScore (out of 10)
Direction (Chng Yi Kai)6
Script (Chng Yi Kai)6
Performance (Judy Ngo and Julius Foo)7
Lighting Design (Genevieve Peck)7
Sound Design (Hee Suhui)7
Set Design (Lim Wei Ling)6
Total39/60 (65%)
Final Score:★★★☆☆

Age is a bitter pill all of us have to swallow at some point in life. But for LGBTQ+ people in conservative Singapore, age hits especially hard when you realise how much youth is prized, how old couples can rarely celebrate their love in public, and how those remaining single are often saddled with the task of caring for their own ageing parents while their siblings have gone off and gotten married.

Presented by Drama Box, When cloud catches colours is theatremaker Chng Yi Kai’s attempt at presenting the older queer experience onstage, and the many problems they face. With a script stitched together based on multiple interviews with older members of the queer community, When cloud catches colours presents two intersecting monologues – Qing (Julius Foo) is lost after the end of a nearly 20 year relationship, unable to share his grief with anyone for having remained in the closet, while E (Judy Ngo) struggles with having to take care of her mother, who seemingly takes every opportunity to make her life a living hell.

Being a verbatim theatre play, When cloud catches colours can be awkwardly linked from time to time, often serving as a multitude of mostly non-chronological information that tells their story. The play works best and hits hardest when it’s being frank, ripping away any assumptions we might have about the LGBTQ+ community to tell the truth. In the very beginning, we hear an audio clip from the very first Pink Dot video in 2010, featuring a mother seemingly accepting her lesbian daughter, before E turns to us and explains how her relationship with her mother is far from what is depicted in the video.

Throughout the play, we learn both characters’ stories, and for the most part, it’s brutal. So much of their stories revolve around loneliness and solitude, from Qing’s frequent emotional breakdowns, to E’s mother sneaking in her burden of a brother, freshly released from prison, before blaming her for not being nicer. As E says: your parents may not physically abandon you but they can still do it in spirit. All this, while they grapple with Lim Wei Ling’s set, with gauzy white cloth stretched out and hung in various configurations to cover the stage. At times they find themselves suffocated by it, while at others, they wander in and out of it, directionless and alone.

While Qing and E never actually meet, there almost feels like a quiet acknowledgement of each other’s existence, always hovering close to each other, but never touching. They are not responding to each other, but co-existing in their own lives, understanding that to be queer and single, older and middle class, is pain. All around them, there is only rejection and angst, from Qing being ghosted after buying someone a meal, to E grappling with the new generation of queers and their unadulterated anger and rage. The queer ‘community’ after all, seems to be merely a myth, each individual caught up only with their own problems.

Yet, at the end of a storm comes a rainbow. Qing finds solace beyond searching for a replacement, and instead begins to volunteer and draw joy from helping others. In a similar vein, E tells us about her non-binary nephew/niece, who writes her a letter thanking her for simply being her, and giving them courage to be who they are. By the end of the play, all the ‘clouds’ have lifted, to reveal the trippy, multi-coloured floor lying beneath them all this while. The message at the end of When cloud catches colours isn’t anything revolutionary or new, but it works as a sensitive, honest reminder of what legacy a queer person can leave behind. The solution is simple but well-meaning: choose kindness, choose truth, and choose to reach out to let those around you know that they are loved.

Photo Credit: Drama Box

When cloud catches colours runs from 3rd to 5th March 2023 at the Drama Centre Black Box. Tickets available from BookMyShow

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