Mind-Bends: Literary Evening 2019
Thirteen is a number that usually does not bode well for the superstitious, but the thirteenth Literary Evening proved otherwise. This year’s theme, Mind-Bends, is once again rooted in the topic paper, “The Mind and Self in Literature,” and our Literature students rose to the challenge with stellar productions. Masterfully intertwining thematic concerns and dramatic techniques of the A-Level Literature texts, the three performing classes pushed the theme to its limits, bending character motivations and plot arcs. The result was stunning performances that immersed the audience in another place and time, while exploring latent spaces in the texts.
The theme “Mind-Bends” alludes to the subversion of truth and tales, as well as the manipulation of minds through narratives and past experiences, though at times these same manipulators fall victim to their own imagination, memories, and pasts. Blurring the lines between what is real and what is not, this year’s productions also explore the ideas of truth and illusion to deliver insight into the intricate minds of the characters.
The Evening, hosted by Benny Sum and Janani Arrii of 2T03, started out with royal grandeur with 2T01’s Long Live the King, a delectable blend of the Shakespearean classic Hamlet and Edward Albee’s surreal play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Woolf). In this play, Hamlet is completely, coincidentally brought before a menacing couple in the form of George and Martha. As the night slowly bathes itself in the intellectual, carnal, and familial war between the three, what appeared to be true and concrete eventually became washed down in the torrent of mind games and manipulation. The play ends shadowed in red, as the Prince of Denmark ultimately succumbs to the manipulation of George and Martha of New England, falling victim to the bending of truth and stuck in the couple’s quagmire of lies.
Martha and George’s psychotic games pull the rug from under Hamlet’s feet, in 2T01’s Long Live the King. L to R: Rachael Lim, Pranav Ghosh, and Seth Ng, of 2T01.
But this was not the only iteration of Albee’s play among the productions of the Evening—the night was only just beginning. It is said that a picture paints a thousand words—and the speechless prologue of 2T03’s Piece of Mind painted more than a few pictures. Blending Albee’s Woolf and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (Gatsby), this production opened with a now-familiar setting: a night of revelry and debauchery in George and Martha’s living room in New England. But parties bring guests—and this time, it brings along Daisy Buchanan, imagined to be George’s flapper girl mistress. As Martha and Daisy take turns to showcase (or show off) their individual relationships with George, the bends in George’s psyche are revealed, as skeletons in the closet are brought up. Eventually, things come to a head as the two women finally appear on stage together, and unspoken things are finally spoken of, exposing issues of (in)fertility and (in)fidelity. The play ended with George on the floor and Martha shouting offstage, having dragged Daisy by the hair across the stage, dragging her out of the sight and mind, a poignant picture of a broken man and an uneasy ending for the audience.
“Tell ’em all Daisy’s change’ her mine. Say ‘Daisy’s change’ her mine!’”—a turning point in the play, as Daisy mouths these words while Martha and George look on, in 2T03’s Piece of Mind. L to R: Allysa Escanuela, Isabella Stoddart, and Ean Tan, of 2T03.
The plays were tied up nicely with 2T08’s String Theory. An ambitious cocktail of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Portrait), George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan (Joan), and Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, the play took the idea of tensions between the past and the present as its central point. Social outcasts Stephen, from Portrait, and Joan, the eponymous character in Joan, ceaselessly shunned for their ‘unorthodox’ beliefs, are yet bound by the strings of their pasts. Being brought together, they find themselves also bound, inextricably, to each other, in the present. All this is set against the backdrop of an extravagant party that Gatsby throws. And Gatsby himself is no stranger to being entangled by the past—in particular, to Daisy Buchanan. Yet while Stephen and Joan find themselves, as strings that bind them together pull away from the strings that held them back, Gatsby finds no such solace, and is untethered, doomed to his endless parties, ever seeking, never sated.
Stephen and Joan embrace—an unlikely couple seeking shelter in their uncanny similarities—as the invisible forces of the world revolve around them. Stephen and Joan were played by Carl Cruz and Shiori Ong, of 2T08.
The next segment of the Evening was dedicated to untying the knots and entanglements of the productions. The third Literary Evening talk show, graciously hosted by the emcees and starring the directors and the producers of the plays, gave the audience an insight into the creative processes behind the productions, the dramatic significance of certain scenes and decisions, and even an exclusive look at some of the more prominent props used. The audience were then invited to participate in a spontaneous question and answer segment of the talk show—and some members of the audience rose to the challenge. Panelists were asked about the cuts they had to make, the nature of their scriptwriting, and other conceptual decisions made.
L to R: Benny Sum and Janani Arrii of 2T03; Rajwa Afra Aulia and Esther Ng of 2T01; Camille Ong and Shaena Wan of 2T03; and Athena Tan and Troy How of 2T08.
Once again, Literary Evening showcased the conceptual comprehension, interpretative ability, and creative thinking our Literature students have of the texts. Literary Evening remains mesmerising and memorable for the performing classes and the audience, and will remain bound to the memories of our CJC journey.