MKA has done us a service in breaking our Anglocentric bubble and bringing this significant writer to our notice
sex.violence.blood.gore | Review
Alison Croggon | Theatre Notes
5 July, 2012
t’s no surprise to read that Singaporean enfant terrible Alfian bin Sa’at is a poet as well as a playwright. sex.violence.blood.gore (co-written with Ching Tze Chien) is a play that exploits the poetic of theatre, pushing at the edges of rupture that also concerned Jean Genet. Like Genet, bin Sa’at explores a queer aesthetic that links sexual and colonial violence, invoking disturbing fantasies of power that open up the perversions of repression and lacing the anger of his writing with moments of unexpected lyrical tenderness. He is a moralist in the same sense as Genet, wrenching open the hypocrisies and hidden desires that writhe inside conventional moralities and offering up the resulting complexities, with a curiously dispassionate air, for our inspection. Which is to say: MKA has done us a service in breaking our Anglocentric bubble and bringing this significant writer to our notice. Singapore is just up the road, people: we (meaning me too) should know more about what’s going on there.
The play itself is really a series of short plays: a repressed geography teacher whose suddenly released sexual rapacity must be destroyed at all costs; a viciously satirical skit on British colonial women fantasising about their Cantonese maids; two lovers and two soldiers in the wake of the Japanese occupation of China and the infamous Rape of Nanking; two teens meeting a pair of transvestites on a train; a monologue from Annabel Lee, a cross between the “world’s biggest porn star” Annabel Chong and Lee Kuan Yew. Stephen Nicolazzo directs a compelling production: Eugyeene Teh’s set frames the action in a pink simulacrum of a traditional proscenium arch, all wonky Grecian columns and Hans Belmer naked limbs, and the cast is costumed in archly pornographic corsets, dog collars and panties, with the white-face make-up of Kabuki theatre. The performances cast against expectations – are outstanding.