In this pre-show feature, I interview Jasmine, a co-founder of Couch Theatre, on the upcoming production “Melancholy Play”.
“Melancholy Play” is a play written by Sarah Ruhl, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist. In a bold move, new local theatre company Couch Theatre will attempt to make sense of melancholia (ie sadness) and also de – stigmatize this common emotion felt in modern society, promising unabashed melodrama and shameless comedy on the depressive topic.
I got wind from the team that Couch Theatre was formed by a young group of twenty-somethings, ex – Raffles Players Rei-en, Shien, Izabel, Ziyad and Jasmine. “Melancholy” would be Couch Theatre’s debut, and director Jasdeep Singh Gill’s first public production (one notable credit of his is a 2011 Players’ production of Jean Tay’s “BOOM”). The lead Tilly is played by Cheryl Foo, who has been in theatre for a good part of her teenage life.
When asked how the play actually challenges the traditional concept of depression, Jasmine explains that although the word melancholy brings to mind a quiet sadness and a dreamy pensiveness, melancholy in the play would be “bold, outward, sassy, sexy and unashamed”. This accords with the playwright’s urging for one “not to be afraid of sincere melodrama”.
In fact, even though the play was written in 2001 and probably a reflection of the young and depressed in the late 20th century, Jasmine says that melancholia is a universal feeling that transcends time. Notwithstanding the exact causes may vary across time, melancholia is still relevant as suffering is a universal human condition, and setbacks are an unavoidable part of human life.
As this is the stage premiere of Ruhl’s play in Singapore, the interpretation of the comedy and melodrama in Ruhl’s script would differ from an American’s interpretation of the same, due to the difference in cultural influences driving the directing/acting of the play. The actors will also bring their personal notions about melancholia, and whacky personalities into the play.
Jasmine lets on that the audience will find the “nonlinear realism” of Ruhl’s play refreshing, as the nonsensical elements in the storyline give the audience a rare opportunity to stretch boundaries and let their imagination run free. At the same time, the plunge into a whimsical world will provoke the audience to reflect upon the realities of their own lives and their relationships.
Couch Theatre hopes that through the play, Singaporeans can recognize that sad emotions are not bad; and that they too help us appreciate life and its beauty. In this world of suspended disbelief, quirky and sad take centre stage in what will hopefully be a beautiful spectacle.