Eveything But The Brain

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Inevitable, undefined and scary, to say the least. I don't think anyone can deny the fact that they are uncertain about the prospect of death. I mean, what exactly is it? Where will it bring you? The thought of not existing in this world ever, the thought of your loved ones being left behind grieving, the thought of becoming ash (or buried in earth, depending on your religion) frightens many, including myself. 

Nope, I'm not here to discuss about the philosophy behind this end that every human being would eventually have to go through because I am not capable or smart enough to do that. I would just like to examine the emotions that intertwine with this process. 

Personally, I have not experienced death myself (understandably) not have I truly gone through the pain of losing a close, loved one. Undoubtedly, I know that it will be absolutely devastating and I'd do anything to turn back time, to stop this horrible thing called aging or perhaps just simply, and more realistically, to spend more time with the one who passed away. 

And that's exactly the same emotion that Elaine, the protagonist of "Everything But The Brain" by playwright Jean Tay, went though. 

Everything But the Brain (EBTB) is a local play and the script is an O Level Literature school text. In my school, we are studying this for our EYAs as well. Of course, we're very lucky to have a run of EBTB staged while we're in the midst of analysing the text. First staged in 2005 by ACTION theatre, this play has garnered critical acclaim in the local theatre scene. 

Essentially the story is about a middle aged secondary school Physics teacher, Elaine, her search for her Prince Charming (who appears in the form of her dad's doctor Dr Sam Chen) and the main storyline stems from her stoke-stricken dad and how she spends time with him in his last few months and discovers a lot about herself and what he did for her. The main cast is complemented with three very important people, the chorus, and to me, they act as Elaine's subconscious and gives the play a nice little twist. 

This run of EBTB stars Gerald Chew as the father, Koh Wan Ching as Elaine and Edward Choy as the Doctor. 

The all important chorus - Faizal Abdullah, Amanda Tee and Cassandra Spykerman! 

So yes, I went to watch this very play - in fact, I've just come home - with four of my friends (fellow Literature students!) Wang, Phion, Sarah & Swan! :-) We had a great time and I will be blogging about that separately but it's probably going to be my last time going out as till EYAs end because the exams are really drawing near and I need to get my game together. Then again, watching this play is really like revision for Literature EYAs. 

The play was staged at the DBS Arts Centre, and it's my second time there; I caught Lord of the Flies (another Literature text) during my first time at this place. I personally quite like the location because it allows for a cozy and more intimate setting for the performances there due to its small size.

Our tickets cost $38.50 each and this includes the subsidies that they gave for students as this was an O Level Literature text. I personally think that this is a very nice move on their part and it truly encourages students to study Literature for the passion and exposes us to the real form of the art. It felt really cool seeing the heavily annotated text come to life and sparks a new interest and perspective in the story, which is timely. 

The programme booklet was extremely well-put together and it's evident that a lot of effort has been put into this production, as small scale as it might appear to be on the surface. They modelled the programme booklet after those files which doctors use to record a patient's progress and it was really cute because the formatting inside circled around this same concept. They even attached a specially designed bookmark that educated us on stroke symptoms and that was a nice touch.

The bookmark and programme booklet! :') 

Minute details aside, the play itself was very enjoyable. It was high on the entertainment factor and the three actresses/ actors who played chorus A, B and C were super talented individuals - their acting is really fantastic but it stood out so much so that it kind of overshadowed the main theme of the play itself. It diluted the heart wrenching moments with lots of laughter and though laughter is always good, I had wanted the play to tug at my heartstrings a little bit more. 

Perhaps it's really because this is a play and not simply a book so the director definitely had to take engagement of audience into consideration when staging this. The relationship between Elaine and the Doctor was a bit more clear cut in the play - it was evident that he fancied her - while in the script itself, I felt that it appeared a bit more fuzzy which showcased Elaine's doubt of her own self-worth more. It was very cute though, to see love happening on stage, especially since the actor playing the doctor was quite good looking. 

The particular audience I was in tonight was a bit more on the cheerful side, laughing a lot at the little jokes and antics the characters made which annoyed me quite a bit because I had wanted to experience the touching moments a bit more, only because the script captured these scenes so well. Like the theatre critic that wrote about this staging of EBTB in The Straits Times "Life!" section, the play lacked heart. I'm quite sure that a lot of people who watched the play didn't read the script beforehand and didn't fully understand playwright Jean Tay's intended message. Then again, it's up to their own personal interpretation as well and we were all definitely entertained tonight. 

I was blown away by the sets though, it was very creative, with its use of black strings instead of a black curtain, which allowed backstage to be slightly visible and it added a nice touch to it. The visuals were suitable to the scenes and I truly loved how they managed to incorporate two chairs as their main props - it was simple yet effective. The sounds and lighting complemented the eventual effect well too. 

This play runs till 21 August so if you do have the opportunity, please go grab tickets for it - I personally find it quite worth it and it would leave you entertained for a night :-) However, I had wanted it to leave me thinking and reflecting about the relationships I have with my parents especially when all of us are growing older by the second so that was disappointing. I would recommend that you read the book as well (in fact, if you can only choose one, choose to read the book instead of watching the play - the play's great but you'd take away more if you read the book). Personally, I find that this isn't one of those typical literature texts as this is truly engaging and fairly straightforward, making it very pleasant to read! The book would tug on your heartstrings and leave you thinking while the play would make you laugh and have a fun and enjoyable time :-) 

With Swan, Wang, Sarah & Phionn! :-) 

Then the skies got dark and it was time to go home :') 

Indeed, death is inevitable but I shall do my best to spend time with the people who I love and who mean the most to me. Who knows what might happen next? I am determined to make sure that however scary death might seem, it is something I'd be able to accept and live with and that stems from caring for those around me. 

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