Image source: http://www.toyfactory.com.sg/
We entered from the rear.
Judging from the knowing laughs from the audience of about 20 plus people as we were ushered through the darkened passageway of the Black Box, we understood the intended allusion to anal sex. And that marked the beginning of a rather immersive experience.
Grind, the play by renowned playwright Goh Boon Teck, put up by Toy Factory, aimed at being an insightful exploration into the psyche of the gay man through the eyes and experiences of 4 Singaporean gay guys: Long, Pang, Tian and Gan.
Long, the activist, caught up in his activism and fighting for gay rights, looks forward to Pink Dot in June. His tirades against 377A reminds one that in the midst of all the personal struggles of the gay man, there is a larger fight in the community against the discriminating archaic colonial law which survived in post-colonial Singapore in spite of it having been already removed in UK by its originators. How ironic.
Pang’s struggles centre around relationship: the relationship especially with his sister with whom he shares a familial love, strengthened by their need for mutual support upon their parents’ death in a car accident. One would think that their love would have been strong enough to overcome all odds. But it was not to be. Sister doesn’t accept a gay brother. And the audience feels the hurt caused by the stony silence of the sister as she rejects her flesh and blood when he decides to get married to his partner.
Tian is the stereotypical gay character. Obsessed with looks and outward appearance, the mirror is to him the eternal reflection of his need to look good. And aptly the full monty is reserved for him, though it is behind a veil not only to cover his modesty for the sake of the audience but really as symbol of the illusive facade of outward appearance, buffing up with supplements and the gym, and the endless pursuit of and narcissistic obsession with looks in the gay community.
Gan’s story is to me the most poignant and is the centrepiece of the whole night’s experience as the audience joins him in his struggles with his faith and his sexuality. In the climatic end, Gan kills himself in a gay sauna and the semi-dark naked rear view of him in Christ-like crucifixion transfixes itself on the minds of the audience. Only in death, it seems, is Gan finally able to reconcile his faith and his sexuality.
From the way the play moves, these 4 characters are merely caricatures of gay men. They are not intended to be real life in the sense that the gay psyche is far too complex for a one-and-a-half hour play. Obviously Goh doesn’t set out to cover everything; it would impossible to do so…..Gay life is too complex. And so we are left with what would be an introductory lecture to being gay.
And as an introductory lecture, Grind works well. It is an immersive experience where the 4 actors performed on elevated platforms, often getting down to audience level and moving amongst them, inviting them to be part and parcel of the ongoing psychological action fleshing out before their eyes. If you are straight, the play would be quite eye-opening as you listen to the vocalization of the inner worlds of gay men. If you are gay, it would be an important experience as you take a look at your own psyche not as yourself but as another person. It is an exercise in metacognition, an attempt to look into your own psyche from the outside. It may be something needful for those of us caught up with the stressful work deadlines of weekdays and the dizzy pubbing and clubbing of weekends…..
So the question remains: is it all “Grind” in the gay world? I believe otherwise: in our world, the sun does shine and we do bask in its warmth and vitality. And the fun and games go on and on…..
Grind ended its run last night (2 April 2016)
Watch the trailer at: http://www.toyfactory.com.sg/grind-microsite/