Wednesday, January 26, 2005

(T) April 11, 2004 - No Parking on Odd Days

KUO Pao Kun’s No Parking on Odd Days was the first theatre production to be staged at the Chamber in The Arts House at the Old Parliament. It was one of various performances held during No More Walls festival which marked the launch of Singapore’s latest arts venue.

No Parking was chosen to “house-warm” the Chamber in honour of the late Kuo, playwright, theatre director and teacher, and doyen of modern Singapore theatre. Active in promoting Mandarin plays in the 1960s, and English-language and multi-lingual plays in the 1980s and 1990s, had a hand in putting Singapore theatre on the world theatre map.

No Parking is a monologue about a man and his confrontation with bureaucracy over several parking summonses and his dilemma in court. It is also about his relationship with his son. The questions it poses are always pertinent: Will we stand up for what we believe in? How do we cope with the ever-changing social landscape? Should we just accept injustice or fight against it?

The new TheatreWorks production was produced and directed by Jeffrey Tan, who has 12 years of directing, writing and teaching experience. It featured veteran Singaporean actor Lim Kay Tong, who played the roles of No Parking Man, Father, Son, Compound Officer and various other characters in court.

This monologue operates on many levels. Literally, those who have been through the hassles of fighting the legal system will be able to relate to the pain and emotional stress No Parking Man feels. The law may say that one is innocent until proven guilty, but in real life, one is often deemed guilty until proven innocent.

The two chairs on the runway represent Authority, a dominant force in Kuo Pao Kun's No Parking On Odd Days.

On another level, Man has this on-going moral debate: Should I just conform and relieve myself of the emotional stress and move on with life? How much will it cost me to uphold justice in terms of money and time?

The character of the son provides the twist to the story. Knowing full well that some people have no moral values or conscience, the play singles out the important thing we have at stake – our children. With that, we now have to address the consequences of our actions and decisions on those we hold dear.

There are some site-specific challenges in the Chamber. . The seats are high, thus blocking the view of the stage. For example, from where I was sitting (the second row beside the runway), Lim “disappeared” from sight whenever he sat on the floor, musing about injustice.

Art House has strict rules about adding lights for light design or whatever reasons. Productions will just have to make do with the permanent chandelier just above the runway and some lights affixed to the sides of the plastered ceiling. There are also no backlights.

As the Chamber was not built for acoustics, it was difficult for Lim to throw his voice to the audience. Despite that, the team had decided not to use microphones. As a result, the quality of voice projection fluctuated as he paced up and down the runway. Jeffrey and Lim had decorated the runway instead of the stage. Two chairs, representing Authority, sit on either end of the runway; between them is the “road”. The set illustrates the problems with bureaucracy and traffic rules.

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