By: Sarima Jasmin
At the Singapore Arts Festival 2009, Toy Factory Productions displayed yet another brilliant local theatre piece. Directed by the acclaimed author and director Goh Boon Teck, The Crab Flower Club, was inspired and produced based on poems in Cao Xue Qin’s masterpiece, Dreams of the Red Chamber.
Director Goh Boon Teck channelled his appreciation and endless inspirations from Chinese cultures and issues for the production. Accompanied by visually impressive projections and lighting, a wall of porcelain vases and a live painting by Singapore ink artist Hong Sek Chern, the set made it easy for the audience to believe and imagine themselves being transported back to China during the Qing Dynasty.
Set in a household where five daughters – each with their individual emotional background and experiences- clashed and added their own flavour to complicate, they gather to prepare a feast on the eve of their father’s 60th birthday and form an all-women poetry club in secrecy at a time when female artists were not regarded.
In the process of creating the poetry club, the five daughters relayed bits and pieces of their own secrets and hidden desires on each of the night they meet. As the story unfolds, the audience were able to observe each of their character’s yearnings through their contribution and exchange of poetry.
While Lady Wu Chang and Sister Wu Yu, (played by Nell Ng and Jean Ng respectively) convincingly demonstrated their dilemma between being dutiful wives to their abusive husbands and the desire to seek their own independence for growth, Lady Han Bing (played by Noorlinah Mohd) displayed the perfect set of emotions as she struggles to put up an image of a strong and unaffected woman after her third miscarriage under the disguise of her obsession for a clean kitchen.
There is also much enthused drama to expect between the two younger daughters, Sister Wu Jie and Sister Liao Liao (played by Janice Koh and Patricia Toh respectively) whose opinions on each other’s priorities vary greatly despite their characters being the youngest out of the sisters. As the story advanced, the five daughters aimed to seek solace from their individual predicament through their poetry.
The Crab Flower Club is a definite feast for the senses; it creates a balanced mix of dark and empowering setting with a tinge of humour and quirky bits to lighten the heavy content that was portrayed in the production. The cast of the production, with their elaborate costumes, gave splendid interpretation of their own characters, unconsciously encouraging the audience to relate to their performances.
Director Goh Boon Teck has indeed risen to expectations with this production. Not only did he manage to identify the relevance of the issues brought in by each character, he was also successful in bridging the old with the new; employing the beauty of classical poems and history to mirror the current pace of life in today’s society.
“A definite delicacy, the Crab Flower Club proved to be quite the indulgence for the audience.” – ArtZine Singapore
Images courtesy of Lionel Lai.