Once upon a time. That was how this play began. Delicate animated projections shone on strips of black curtain in the background and I knew it was going to blow my mind. Sight Lines Productions’ Everything but the Brain takes its spectators this time through Elaine’s journey with Physics and her debilitating father.
It claimed to be no fairy tale. And indeed, it was so with such a human plot of love and loss. A spinster at the age of 36, Elaine would be an unlikely princess. As the story unfolds, you would find it to be less of a fairy tale and more of a heart-rending account of a father-daughter relationship. Yet, the three bears (Chorus A, B and C) as figments of Elaine’s imagination sprinkle the play with a touch of what made it feel a tad more magical. Interjecting periodically with commentary – reflective, mocking, naggy or playful – the bears brought a good balance of light-heartedness to the poignant play.
Portrayed by Faizal Abdullah, Amanda Tee and Cassandra Spykerman respectively, Chorus A, B and C were the most expressive of all, bursting with cheekiness, wit and at times in song and dance. My, oh my, the fresh talent of Tee and Spykerman. They will do great things. There’s no doubt. As for Abdullah, his performance was absolutely rib-tickling, often switching from a Frenchman to a stereotypical Indian student to a make-believe bear.
This versatility was apparent in Gerald Chew and Koh Wan Ching’s portrayal of the father and Elaine as well, especially in those perfectly timed flashbacks. In one second, you see a stroke-afflicted elderly and a middle-aged sob story cursed to be forever alone. In another, they become an energetic yet struggling single father and a 6-year-old brat. Each transition was seamless. They didn’t even need costume changes. Chew didn’t have to darken his hair and Koh didn’t have to put on pigtails. Nothing, but talent. And it was more than enough to convince us.
With the expectations of a theatre-filled audience to live up to his title as Best Actor (Life! Theatre Awards 2006), Chew effortlessly proved his worth once again. Although he has never had a child of his own, he won our hearts over with a performance that resonated with those who have experienced the love of a father.
“Time is like acid. It eats you alive.” Of the many monologues in the play, the one in which Chew talks about what time has done to him was a favourite. Unlike Physics and everything else in his life, his daughter was the one thing that never made sense. And that right there is love.
Not to forget, there’s the doctor (Edward Choy), who was much more dashing in person. Nerdy yet completely qualified as Prince Charming, the doctor’s awkward attempts at romancing Elaine brought the house down in laughter. Whether they would wind up together or not is for you to find out, but surprises are definitely in store!
Of course, everything would be nothing without the brilliance of Jean Tay’s scriptwriting. Every line was like poetry, intertwined with witty humour, illustrating sentiments that only she could accurately put into words. Besides the cast and the writer, the play would be lacking in depth without the sonic mastermind, Darren Ng. Subtle was the music, but powerful was its effect. Coupled with well-suited lighting, it distinguished an average show from a good one.
Everything but the Brain was beautiful in every sense of the word. It will twist your heartstrings, give you stitches and push you to bawl your eyes out, but it will never disappoint. And you can trust for every Derrick Chew production to impress because this was everything but a bane. Time is ticking. So catch it while you still can!
Image Credits: Sight Lines Productions