Picture by Action Theatre
Date: 10 August 2007
Time: 8 pm
Venue: The Room Upstairs, Action Theatre, 42, Waterloo Street.
by Richard Chua
13 August 2007
Ovidia Yu’s Hitting (On) Women is a small piece of theatre about domestic violence in a lesbian relationship. A play on this aspect in a gay relationship is timely, especially when much of the community’s obsession has been to look for meaningful relationships, without even knowing what a relationship entails. Hitting (On) Women seems to have been conceived as a one-woman monologue, with several characters in it. These characters appear mainly in her head. I always believe that it is nice to be crazy once in a while, thinking of past relationships, especially those who are dead, to see how one’s life should be continued, for the better or worse. Perhaps, the development of the idea of love has reached the stage where thinking of a past relationship proves to be more meaningful than trying to maintain existing ones.
That’s what I love about Ovidia’s Hitting (On) Women. Her text spurred me on to speculate what love has become these days.
The need to feel part of something much larger than you are is human. As a reviewer, I try to get under the skin of the playwright, the production. And as a gay man, to try get beyond the current concerns of gay people to see if there is something else besides attempts to glorify one’s sexuality. Like everyone, deep down inside us, we are losing the ability to believe in our instincts, myself included. There are simply too many mind-fucking activities within us that give us loads of problems. Those who could manage it well call it self-reflexivity; the rest are just mentally “fucked-up”.
So, is Ovidia Yu’s Hitting (On) Women a self-reflexive play or is it about a woman whose mind has gone out of sync with her life? I would go for the latter. Come to think of it, the best plays in town have the most “fucked-up” characters, for they only speak the truth and the real, with irrationality.
It is through these characters we discover common grounds/shared values we wanted to possess in order to make us relatively happier in life.
Action Theatre’s Hitting (On) Women could have been a voice for the victims of domestic violence. But, Samantha Scott-Blackhall – the director of this production – did not adopt the strategy to devote the stage to the sole voice of a woman. Instead she adopted the strategy to present the play straight-up in a single narrative with peripheral characters appearing alongside the main one, which diffused The Woman’s (played by Janice Koh) emotional and psychological energies. This strategy also made Dead Karen (played by Serene Chen) looked rather odd on stage, where her presence as a ghost/memory of the past seemed to look one-dimensional as opposed to Ovidia’s rich sub textual references in her text. The use of an extra big table and chair wasn’t effective either. Not only the overly big sets made the stage looked lopsided, with unfriendly sight lines, they made the characters look small in the production, further dampening the strength of The Woman’s voice.
Ovidia’s play gave the director many opportunities to delve deep into the characters’ minds. From the first phone call from Mrs Pereira, to the appearances of the woman’s parents and people from the church, the play is a mind-fucking experience. This experience is theatre. I would prefer to experience The Woman’s journey than to just listen to her story.
On the whole, Ovidia Yu’s text was well played to a mass audience. But there was a slight danger to this particular staging of the performance. The ignorant straight public might be misled in believing that gay relationships were filled with domestic violence, hence perpetuating the perception that gay relationships were abnormal as compared to heterosexual ones. Hence, more could be done to the text to balance this public perception.
– end –
hi richard, thanks for your review! i agree with your points, especially the last--yes, i am very conscious of ‘public perception’ thing and will try to do something about that… but am also afraid we may shy away from mentioning certain real aspects of our lives for fear of ‘bad press’--which may be just what creates those aspects… i know that’s not expressing it very well… but all the instinctive hiding & expecting criticism/condemnation that are often a part of gay life in singapore can lead a person in an abusive gay relationship to feel he/she ‘deserves’ the treatment. that was the point i was trying to put across at the end of the piece--we need to make sure people in such situations realise there is nothing to be ashamed of in themselves or their inclinations and nobody has a right to abuse them (even if our men can be legally caned & imprisoned and singapore churches are seeking similar penalties for our women…) um… do you see how warped things turn out and why i find it easier to write plays than reviews or essays? thanks for coming to watch. and your responses to the staging were so close to mine i may need you to go swear, hand on heart, to action theatre that i did not put you up to writing the piece!!!!!! ovidia