Next To Normal.

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Let’s just say I am probably part of the minority that do not always enjoy productions by Pangdemonium.

No one company is capable of producing amazing shows all the time. There will always be things to improve on and to look at, which is why plays can be staged again and again and people will still pay to watch them.

Anyway, I caught Next To Normal at the Drama Centre last Tuesday.

(Yea, it is quite some time back but I was trying to digest it and figure out my opinion on it.)

Sadly, I was disappointed by the production. Maybe it was because the amazing reviews by the media raised my expectations? I do not know, but the piece failed to make an impact on me despite the heavy themes involved.

I felt the acting by the cast was fine, but I felt the stakes were not high enough. They were not at the edge of insanity even though the family’s been trying to cope with the mother’s bipolar disorder for the past 18 years.

The mixed emotions portrayed were mild, I think. It was more believable if it was just about the family losing a commodity of some sort, rather than the tiredness of loving someone that sees only her dead son but nothing else.

Other than that, it was nice that I could see the relationships connecting more after the first Act. It started growing beyond just physical closeness and entering another’s personal space, so I liked that.

With it being a musical, the acting had to be supported by the voice presenting the songs to the audience.

It was awesome that the live band followed the actors so well, but at times, the words were drowned out or lost in the music. For some of the cast, their singing voice was tight and constrained, which was a pity.

However, I was touched by Sally Ann Triplett’s rendition of I Miss The Mountains as Diana in that moment. It showed a softer and quieter side of the character compared to the songs before.

As always, Pangdemonium never fails to present an interesting set for their performances.

This time, I really liked the outline of the human brain on the stage floor. It is a strong message that everything is just happening in your mind. The way memories play out in your head, the things you remember may not be the truth because they were only from your perspective.

I really liked that.

Anyway, despite its shortcomings and many things to improve on, I would say that it is daring to put up such a powerful piece of writing onto stage especially when Singapore’s theatre scene is rather young.

And talking about the writing, the piece is brilliant and Yorkey (the playwright) definitely left me with a lot of things to think about. A lot of questions for me to ponder on.

Should mental illness be medicated or should they have food for their soul? And other questions that will stay in my mind for a long, long time.

(Reminds of a mental illness talk I attended earlier this year by Daniel Fisher. Hmm.)

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