Singapore Fringe Festival 2019
“Peter Handke’s Kaspar investigates the tension between the individual and the forces of society; the external pressure exerted on people who struggle to situate themselves within a culture that is increasingly artificial, vacuous, and uncompromising.”
Photo credit: Ryan McGuire
Austrian author Peter Handke set out to write a play – based on someone called Kaspar – that examines what happens in one’s mind when order, disarray and control influence not only how we gain language but also who we are, as humans. This is an interesting risk taking concept and Edith Podesta and seven performers boldly create their world of Handke’s play.
First off, not one but two actors play the eponymous character of Kaspar. Haiky Zulkifli and Belle share the role of Kaspar, always onstage together, sometimes mirroring each other and at times as individuals reacting off each other.
Five actors are in charge of telling and suggesting the Kaspar pair what they should do and how they should react and learn from words, phrases, sentences and objects. Kaspar starts by speaking in sentences but the barrage of questions and directions from the five lords or masters scramble their brains until they are reduced to child like babble, for a while.
The play is set on a huge square stage with two of the four sides containing giant screens with projections playing several times throughout the play. The use of film and projections add a provocative dimension of mystery to the play, very effectively.
The 90 minute play with no intermission sustains Podesta’s taut direction. A transforming space is achieved by moving the white set comprising five chairs and a long table to different areas of the stage in just a few seconds.
The chorus of five- Shahina Farouk, Joreene Naomi Lim Yu Kee, Zakee Chan, Hayley Meng and Huang Cuishi Tricia all wear stylish white costumes in different combinations of layered skirts, tops, leggings and trousers. They are precise, poised and economic in their movement and chrystal clear in their commands and advice they each give in turn to Kaspar. This is an elegant clinical team in contrast to the two Kaspar characters who are dressed in beige casual shirts, shorts and a hoodie and often shake in fear and confusion.
The vulnerability of Kaspar is well drawn by the two actors in subtle and empathetic performances. While the group of five is all knowing and confident, the performance may benefit from slight definition or nuanced differences in each of the characters. In all this handsome and well performed play is sure to stir the minds – Kaspar is bold and provocative!
Multimedia designer Brian Gothang Tan, Costume designer David Lee, Lighting Designer Steve Kwakiutl Aka Steve E., Sound design To Wee Boon.