Wednesday, July 29, 2015

九年剧场 :: 谢燊杰的《底层》

Rehearsal photo from Nine Years Theatre's facebook page.

Watched Nine Years Theatre's adaptation of Russian playwright Maxim Gorky's 1902 'The Lower Depths'. 九年剧场呈现的《底层》,改编自俄国剧作家高尔基最具震撼力的作品。Translated, adapted and directed by Nelson Chia (谢燊杰) from Gorky's best known 'The Lower Depths', this Chinese version with English surtitles kept to the same number of characters (seven actors played 15 roles) and plot, but removed their names and identified them simply by their jobs, bringing the stark realities closer to home.

Uhh, I couldn't think of the characters in this adaptation as Russians though. There's a certain pain in being Russian in that era. The actors didn't hold that sort of believable deep anguish of having been dealt a terrible hand by the cruel quirks of Fate. However, the impoverished circumstances and of human suffering paint a universal picture a century ago; a century later, nothing much has changed. Poverty and the lack of education remain a vicious cycle. In an interview with The Straits Times, Nelson Chia said,

...Gorky's play reminded him of Singapore's widening income gap and disparity in the quality of life between different social classes. He says: "While we're celebrating the success of the nation with SG50, I thought of those left behind. Whenever a society progresses, there are always those who cannot catch up."

Pride and integrity versus hunger and poverty. What is dignity in the face of illness and death? The articles promoting the play didn't mince their words and linked these themes to the growing income disparity in Singapore as well, noting that in this jubilee year, it's time to take a hard look at who's cleaning the streets, the tables at the hawker centres and those who lurk in the back alleys.

‘尊严这种东西是有钱人才会想的’ | ‘如果诚实的话,三天之内一定饿死’

We scooted off after the show. The post-show dialogue held over tea was too intimate. We were already a group of eight. There would be plenty to chat about over supper. In a separate interview with Lianhe Zaobao (联合早报), Nelson Chia hoped the audience would see the workers in the lower-income bracket and think of their circumstances and reflect upon how differently people live, and how everyone is human at the end.


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