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Singapore Fringe Festival 2019

yesterday it rained salt

Bhumi Collective

Genre: Devised, Physical Theatre, Storytelling

Venue: Esplanade Annexe Studio


Low Down

 Goodbyes are rarely good. And memories can be tricky things.

Azman returns to his island home only to be greeted by new sights and vanishing landmarks. Nothing seems familiar, until it starts to rain.

Written by Nabilah Said and choreographed by Norhaizad Adam, yesterday it rained salt combines text, dance and performance to explore the violence of departure and return, the comfort one can find in memory and rituals, and the relationships that men have.”


Photo credit: Mark Benedict Cheong

A man sits in a chair contemplating. The sound of water is lapping to and fro, waves surround him and he stands and walks slowly barefoot in a circle, holding a bamboo pole. It is thoughtful and poetic.

The simple black box theatre set comprises two chairs and several bamboo poles on the floor in symmetry.

Another man arrives and narrates to the audience, speaking in English talking about his memories of his father. The other man speaks to the audience in Malay about the same memories, but from his point of view.

Surtitles translate the Malay text into English. Son and father estranged, one stayed and the other left, so communication broke down. One deftly places bamboo sticks in a new formation, it’s fascinating watching this and after a while the other joins and they engage, by accident.

The timing of the short dialogue back and forth is appropriately slow and the whole scene is mesmerizing. A dark set and slim sticks embody stories of their lives – who they are and were, how they lived. Soultari Amin Farid plays the son and Kaykay Nizam portrays the father, and the subtle vulnerability between them is palpable. Yet their performances are based on a beautiful stillness punctuated by emotive movement enacting abstract memories.

As performers their characters are great listeners, the action happens often in silent communication with slight adjustments in facial gestures or eyes, it is never overdone. They mesh and the physical storytelling is very effective. Tap tap tapping sounds of a stick, or clicking of fingers, the story that develops is poignant and meaningful with minimal spoken text. This style of performance suits the story and the performers – for an animated scene with more text later in the play is less successful and not as nuanced, even though it is emotional.

Sound effects and music enhance the atmosphere although a loud buzzing sound effect could be more effective at a softer volume.

The arc of the characters is special and they both seek a transformation. There is a certain quality to the performances and the expansive movement in several moments is very interesting. A scene enacted when they were younger of the father admonishing and teaching the son to fish is playful, another scene building a fire is abstract and very well choreographed and performed.

Bhumi Collective created the show with the two performers, playwright Nabiah Said, choreographer Norhaizad Adam and producer Mohamad Shaifulbahri. The integrity of the story and level of the performances is fascinating and moving!