“What is Love” was the most searched phrase on Google in 2012. Having been dubbed the strongest emotion of all, some say love is “chemistry” between two people, others say love is the meaning of life itself. Unlike the way we generalize love, the ancient Greeks referred to love in its different intensities. There’s philia, which is a deep but non-sexual intimacy between close friends and family. Pragma is a kind of mature love developed over time and is maintained by mutual commitment and compromise. Eros is all about the sexual passion and desire we project onto others, whereas Agape is a generalized love that we all feel.
These categories extend to 6 types of love, and according to psychotherapist Philippa Perry, it’s unrealistic to expect to experience all six types with only one person.In the end, the question of whether any of us really know what love is remains unanswered. If love was staring at us point blank, will we recognize it?
Written by celebrated playwright Joel Tan and staged by Checkpoint Theatre, The Way We Go is a play that synthesizes all these messy thoughts about love (and so much more), with the added concept of time, life and death as checkpoints for evaluating Love in its different stages of maturity. We managed a quick word or two with the show’s playwright as well as its Director Claire Wong, to get a better understanding of what it has been like for them to bring such a riveting narrative to life.
Popspoken: What is The Way We Go all about, and are there any specific reasons to stage it now?
Joel Tan: This isn’t a political play, or at least it doesn’t wear its politics on its sleeves. What it does do, I think, is resist the flattening of what it means to be Singaporean, starting with the way we sound — it’s very interested in the diverse, polyphonic music of our voices.
Claire Wong: The Way We Go draws its inspiration from convent school life and imagines the private lives of a headmistress, teachers, and students. You will delight in meeting and knowing our cast of 5 characters: headmistress Agatha, her best friend and fellow teacher Violet, her intellectual partner and the love of her life Edmund, and her former students Lee-Ying and Gillian who are themselves lovers. This is a beautiful and honest play about the complexities of falling in love, growing old, and growing up. Producing The Way We Go continues Checkpoint Theatre’s commitment to nurturing and staging strong original plays that capture an authentic slice of Singapore life – theatre with head and heart, honesty and humour.
The play seems to reminisce about the nostalgic phases in our lives when love was a simple thing to understand. What’s your opinion on why we, as we grow older, second guess our desires to reach out for love?
JT: It’s not so much nostalgia. Love isn’t ever a simple thing to understand. It’s always been my opinion that loving is a very complex and often very painful act and some narratives of love tend to over-simply the whole thing. I’ve had to wean myself off conventional narratives of love and that sometimes means asking difficult questions: Is love transactional? Is it finite? Could you only love one person at a time? Is romantic fulfilment the begin-all and end-all of all life?
CW: The impulse to love is simple and the desire to be loved is simple; yet love itself is incredibly complicated, both for young people and those in the later stages of life. This play takes an unflinching look at the complexity of love at every stage of life. Things don’t get easier as we get older – the stakes get higher.
Was there a special impetus to creating The Way We Go? Did you draw reference from any of your own personal experiences?
JT: I was looking for a play idea for a playwriting class I took in university and a late-night bus ride with my friend about our respective mission and convent school experiences led me to think about that milieu. I was drawn specifically to the teachers I grew up under (at Montfort School), who had a very rich, characterful way of speaking, and wonderfully old-world views about education.
Why the issue of growing up and growing old?
JT: Once I set myself the challenge of writing a play where all the characters are somehow linked through a school, I needed to think through questions of education. All of the characters really go through the same school – that of life, and the teachers and students learn the same lessons.
What can we expect to see Checkpoint Theatre do differently with The Way We Go?
CW: What I find fascinating is that this is a naturalistic play with a non-naturalistic structure. The plot is revealed in a series of flashbacks which are non-linear. There is a fluidity in time and space, much in the way that memories from the past can permeate the present unexpectedly, and the story spans several years. So we’re working with quite sophisticated and ambitious story-telling, which is really exciting.
What do you hope the audience takes back with them after watching The Way We Go?
CW: Live urgently. Love urgently.
JT: A sense of having thoroughly enjoyed themselves at the theatre. I hope they leave feeling entertained, spoken to, loved, treated with respect, and enriched.
Could you share with us your favourite moment/scene in the play, something that would make audiences rush for tickets!
JT: I think my favourite moment in the play is seeing Violet as a 56 year old bride with cold feet. It always cracks me up and moves me at the same time.
CW: There is a wonderful moment when Agatha and Edmund, the mature couple (played by Lydia Look and Patrick Teoh) have a seemingly innocuous argument which escalates dangerously. Because of the emotional authenticity of the writing and the amazing performances of the two actors, it’s a heart-pounding powerful insight into relationships that makes us all go, “Woah – I’ve been there.” It’s moments like these that are the reason we make theatre. And why we go and see it!
Having already watched the entire play with my editor, I can safely say that The Way We Go is one theatre performance you will definitely regret missing. With a stellar cast that comprises of some of the region’s most venerated theatre actors and actresses, the show promises to be one that will take you on a whirlwind journey of compassion, sacrifice and most of all, love! (Be prepared to bawl your eyes out. I did)
Date/Time: 20 Nov – 29 Nov 2014 (8pm and 3pm matinee on weekends)
Venue: SOTA Studio Theatre
Price: $35 (excludes Sistic booking fee)
Ticketing Agent: Sistic
Rated Advisory 16: Some homosexual content