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Rites and Regulations
Published on Sunday, 12 August 2012
4

4 stars

Zoo Southside (venue website)
Theatre
3-7, 9-13 Aug, 9:00pm-10:15pm
Reviewed by Alice de Cent

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

Rites and Regulations features two short plays about burial customs in Singapore, each tacking the issue of standardized spaces in a society dealing with population density – leaving limited room for either living or dead.  The first play aWake sees a girl attending her great-grandmother’s funeral, struggling to understand the Taoist rituals her family rarely practise, but which now become crucial. The second play follows another mourner home, as he relives the day his grandfather was buried in The Coffin Is Too Big For The Hole.

The company’s use of movement is excellent, expertly characterizing the varying ages of the family members. The ensemble create humorous and believable characters, and the plays neatly balance comedy drawn from daily struggles with bureaucracy with the deep emotions loss can create.

The set is primarily composed of a series of white blocks that move cleverly to become chairs, doors, and a flat screen that hosts impressive animated scenes. The artwork is reminiscent of architects’ drawings, evoking the daily concerns of the characters that live and die in well-planned, standardized spaces. The show plays on all senses, using music and incense to create the world, at one point allowing the audience to participate in a funeral to illuminate one tradition.  

It wasn’t always clear how much the two plays were intended to be interwoven, with only one character featuring in both. But while both could stand alone, the common threads of a young girl, certain that the adults are withholding some greater understanding but inwardly share her confusion, make for a poignant close. Rites and Regulations is a well-executed and interesting piece on a subject that, while showcasing traditions that are particular, illuminates the commonality of responses to issues of life and death.

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