Next week, the graduating cohort of the Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI) will present RevoLOOtion, a performance-workshop that looks at oppression. I spoke to the students involved in the production to find out more about the show.
If you are only given three words to describe RevoLOOtion, what would they be?
Aaron Kaiser Garcia: Fresh, Brave, Powerful.
Lin Jiarui: Discover, Explore, Solve.
Kewal Kartik: Basic, Authentic, Reminder.
Marvin Acero Ablao: Challenging, Transformative, Understanding.
Sandeep Yadav: Power, Democracy vs Majority, and Onion (to me, RevoLOOtion symbolises an onion, with the audience and cast working together to remove the layers piece by piece in the production).
Sonu Pilania: Wake Up, Speak and Speak Loud.
What inspired you to create this piece?
Aaron: The inspiration came from an incident reported on the news several years ago about a community with no toilet.
Sandeep: The simplicity of complicated oppression situated in this piece, which is related to every human’s fundamental rights.
The core curriculum of ITI consists of being immersed in various traditional Asian performance forms. How has your training influenced your approach in creating this piece?
Aaron: The performance may not showcase any of the traditional Asian performance forms we’ve learnt, but the immersion has helped us in (1) creating a common vocabulary as a cohort made up of different specific cultural backgrounds and (2) our grounding and presence for a contemporary stage performance.
Jiarui: ‘Rasa’ in Kutiyattam helps us better communicate with the invisible characters onstage. At the same time, ‘Liang Xiang‘ in Beijing Opera helps us in making moments in the piece better.
Kewal: I believe the training we receive in ITI prepares us to adapt to any form or challenge.
I see this production as a rugby match — it’s intense yet subtle, and everyone is taking turns running with the ball trying to protect it from others. Actually, we’re all helping each other to hold the ball for the required duration. In the same breath, the immersion of traditional forms has provided the strength to hold that ball. It made sure that we don’t let the spectators’ gaze move away from the ball — the illusion of snatching the ball is maintained.
Marvin: It is the tough and valuable training I’ve received here at ITI that has greatly influenced my approach in this production — to not give up easily in the face of self-doubt.
Sandeep: Art requires different approaches and processes, and these are the approaches that have influenced me in this production.
From Wayang Wong, I adopted the body pilgrimage element when wearing my character’s costume, which helps me to prepare psychologically and physically. Kutiyattam has helped me with my breath control, improving my ‘rasa’ (emotions). Noh has helped me feel grounded in my character, and I’m able to build a sense of awareness with both the space and my co-actors.
Our voice training with Simon Stollery has helped me relax my voice. He has also provided us with incredible voice techniques to use in this production. Humanities classes with T. Sasitharan has fostered critical thinking and self-reflection in me, allowing me to find depth in my characterisation.
Courtesy of Intercultural Theatre Institute
What are some of the difficulties in creating this piece, especially in the midst of the pandemic?
Aaron: The differences in perspective and the COVID-19 restrictions during the devising process.
Jiarui: Invisible walls have been built between the audience and the actors, which makes it difficult for us to communicate with them and limits the piece’s impact on both parties.
Marvin: Being a person who doesn’t like confrontation, the workshop segment has been quite a struggle for me. When it gets chaotic and challenging, it becomes difficult for me to process and comprehend information in my head. However, I’m learning to take my time to break my thoughts down slowly.
Sandeep: The biggest difficulty is sharing the stage with my co-actors and the audience within the safe management rules.
Sonu: We are creating a production that is like forum theatre, an interactive theatre form. It encourages audience interaction and explores different options for dealing with social issues. However, with the pandemic and social distancing, our interaction with the audience becomes limited. So we have to find a substitute for that and adapt.
Were there any interesting discoveries made during the rehearsal process?
Aaron: A discovery we are articulating in the production is that what breaks down a community are differing perspectives of what is the best course of action to take as a community and a lack of understanding.
Jiarui: It isn’t difficult to solve problems in the creative process, and it is very interesting to create solvable problems.
We also hope that this production will not only expose the audience to oppression, but allow them to explore the source of oppression and try to solve it. Even if we can’t overcome it in the end, we can at least make the outcome slightly better.
Kewal: I really enjoy the workshop segment, where we invite the audience to participate in unlocking the complexities of working together through collective intervention and come up with their own solutions based on constructive dialogue. As Augusto Boal once said, “Everyone can do theatre – even actors. And theatre can be done everywhere, even inside theatres”, as he believes that “life and theatre are related enterprises; ordinary citizens are actors who are simply unaware of the play, and everyone can make theatre, even the untrained.” The workshop segment changes the dynamic of the whole piece, and despite the social distancing, I believe the audience will feel the urge to join us in making theatre. This piece is constantly changing shape, and I’m looking forward to bringing it to the audience at Goodman Arts Centre.
Sonu: How to find new and innovative ways to interact with the audience.
Courtesy of Intercultural Theatre Institute
What is one sort of oppression that society should pay more attention to?
Aaron: Oppression is present in any form — from the smallest to the biggest encounters in our daily lives. We, as humans, need to be responsible, vigilant and sensitive in our actions towards others.
Jiarui: We should pay more attention to the oppression that exists around us and try to overcome them.
Marvin: There is a wide spectrum of oppression, but I believe we can achieve understanding and compassion despite our different values and beliefs through constructive dialogue.
Kewal: Oppression exists everywhere, and every form of it should be questioned. Sometimes, it’s so ingrained in a culture, tradition, custom or system that it becomes difficult to even identify it. So we need to identify, acknowledge and stand against it whenever and wherever it’s found. We can start with the oppression that exists in a household or a community. Here I’d like to quote Periyar E. V. Ramasamy:
“If a larger country oppresses a smaller country, I’ll stand with the smaller country. If the smaller country has majoritarian religion that oppresses minority religions, I’ll stand with minority religions. If the minority religion has caste and one caste oppresses another caste, I’ll stand with the caste being oppressed. In the oppressed caste, if an employer oppresses his employee, I’ll stand with the employee. If the employee goes home and oppresses his wife, I’ll stand with that woman. Overall, oppression is my enemy.”
Sandeep: Oppression within the community.
Sonu: Society should pay deeper attention to environmental oppression.
RevoLOOtion runs from 29 April to 1 May 2021 at Goodman Arts Centre Black Box. Tickets from Peatix.