|From The Necessary Stage's Facebook. 📷 by Ruey Loon.|
No idea what to expect at Esplanade Huayi Festival's 'Actor, Forty'《演员四十》. Well, it's about an actress acting as an actress, portraying the character's struggles and her coming-to-terms with her first pregnancy and eventual miscarriage. Neither of these circumstances are what I empathize with or want to understand deeper when watching a play. I didn't fancy the story about an actress in a mid-life crisis even though the angst is very human, but I was game to see the talented lead and watch how the script would pan out.
Produced by The Necessary Stage, this festival commission is written by Haresh Sharma, and directed by Alvin Yeo. We see 75 minutes of Yeo Yann Yann (杨雁雁) in a one-woman play and monologue performed mainly in Mandarin, with some bits in English, Malay, Cantonese and Hokkien. Playwright Haresh Sharma said he wanted to make this role as challenging as possible for the actress, who more than rose to the occasion, brilliantly so.
In an interview with Lianhe Zaobao (联合早报) in late January 2017, the actress said,
我刚好今年就40岁，《女人四十》却是20多年前的电影，我突然发现20多年前的女性角色和责任跟现在40岁的女人很不一样。我们好像倒退、变 ‘年轻’ 了很多，当时的40岁女人，儿子已是大学生了，现在很多40岁女人还没结婚，还在寻寻觅觅，这一生不知要怎么过。” 以前的女人步入40后，人生很过瘾，方向很明确，一辈子就朝着一个目标走下去，对比此刻迷惑也迷失的女人，杨雁雁说这种反差很有趣。
I get that it's about the struggle with accepting or rejecting various identities we all go through at different stages of life, with varied responsibilities demanding different reactions from us. Self-reflection, guilt, joy and inner turmoil played out on stage as Yeo Yann Yann went through the broad range of conflicted emotions. Very much feels. But I'm not keen to go into it. Like I said, there're so many human or feminine emotions or feelings that I don't particularly understand or share. I'm in awe of the actress' versatility and well, memory skills. Good script. I was also very impressed by the crew who helped the actress go through the various costume changes so quickly.