songs by dramabox
27 jul 2001
WHITE SONGS (the first presentation of The Blanc Space series by participants Li Xie, Celia Chang, Ho Yun, Lim Wee Bin, Doreen Toh and Melissa Wee) is actually a full-length play inspired by the legend of Joan of Arc. Friday's presentation of just three scenes was a result of nine months of training that comprised largely of intensive movement and voice workshops conducted by Grzegorz Bral from Poland and Niamh Dowling from the UK. In particular, the last three months were used to work on the three scenes - Prologue (The Birth of Joan), Scene One (Joan's Mission) and Scene Eleven (The Struggle).
Presented in Mandarin, WHITE SONGS did not deter non-Chinese and English theatre goers from satiating their curiosity about Dramabox's quest for theatrical truth. The evening was shrouded in a new agey air (candles lined the perimeter of the mats we sat on, as well as placed on stage to form a circle) tempered with self-awareness as Artistic Director Kok Heng Leun introduced The Blanc Space - an intensive 18 month training "to prepare actors as auteur-performers in local Chinese theatre." This was not before a display of a typical warm-up session where all six female participants of The Blanc Space "opened up" their bodies in a series of moves and counter moves, bouncing back an invisible ball by flexing their bodies, as well as through maximizing their bodies and voices for movement and vocal projection.
The presentation of extracts from WHITE SONGS was to show what has come out from the training and to engage the audience in a dialogue to find out their reactions and opinions.
>>'There were startling, maybe even horrific, moments as the performers produced an aural atmosphere of muttered curses and musical modulations, culminating in piercing screams.'
It was obvious
that the nine months of physical conditioning had produced proficient
physical theatre performers, capable of both the overtly dramatic and
intense subtlety. What was bewildering, however, was the text/story. WHITE
SONGS is inspired by Joan of Arc and not a retelling of the famed legend.
The point of departure was not explicit with scant programme notes. Even
when presenting to an audience work-in-progress, detailed notes about
the play would not hurt, and in this case, would have made the WHITE SONGS
less mystical than it already was. We could catch references to Singapore
daily life about how desperate the economic situation was but we were
lost when Lim Wee Bin waved a red flag with such vigour, or when Ho Yun
(who played Joan) starts engaging in dialogue with Li Xie, or when Li
Xie hovers in the background while Ho Yun wanders around in a daze.
version of WHITE SONGS will be staged in mid-2001, and one hopes with
nothing less than the standard of physical expression we witnessed and
with greater development of the story they want to tell.