Less Than Half

by Aswani Aswath and The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA)
M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2023
(organised and curated by TNS)
NAFA Studio Theatre, Singapore

The 2023 theatre calendar kicks off with Less Than Half as part of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, another production featuring the talents of NAFA undergraduates. Written by Aswani Aswath and co-directed by Adib Kosnan and Yarra Ileto, it's set in an "imagined, futuristic" world where people who feel dispossessed due to issues such as their race, gender, nationality or socio-economic background seek to heal themselves at the Sama Wholeness Centre - a place where smiling therapists dispense healing tonics and urge these 'voyagers' to find harmony on their journey to self-discovery. Rules are sacrosanct and dissenters are swiftly quashed. 

The thesis of equality versus equity and the emptiness behind Singapore's nation building exercise is a deeply political one that has been explored in satires ranging from Tan Tarn How's The Lady Of Soul And Her Ultimate 'S' Machine to Tan Bee Thiam's Tiong Bahru Social Club. It's vital and urgent but by superimposing a cardboard-thin narrative with a sinister/thriller element, we end up reducing the characters into mere anecdotes. 

There's simply too much ground covered in too little time and despite thoughtful movement work, it's dreadfully tedious to sit through. I appreciated the deeply personal, relatable stories of individuals being made to feel less than half for reasons beyond their control and couldn't help but feel that this would have shone in an alternative format such as verbatim or forum theatre. A good effort and youth showcase but this production definitely needs to be thought through to achieve its full potential. 

The Crystalwords score: 2/5


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