I caught Normal on 14 April in the Drama Centre Black Box with my JC theatre friends and thought that the main actresses Claire Chung (Ashley) and Audrey Tiong (Daphne) were amazing.
The story is about two Normal Academic (NA) students in their final year of school. They were about to sit for their O Levels, but were not confident of doing well. Individually, the characters faced setbacks, isolation and loneliness. Together, they portrayed a group of students whom I believe were relatable for many of the NA students in the audience and perhaps anybody else who have friends or relatives in the education system.
Tiong’s character struck me the most, partially because I saw a resemblance of my younger sister in her. Innocent and kind, she is slow and uncertain of herself. Sometimes, others are also not sure how or what she is thinking of when she’s quiet. Often, the effort put in does not translate directly into grades and success. Tiong managed to execute her performance with a sincere rendering of a girl who fumbles with her words, who innocently say things that are hilarious without meaning to and to show the hurt that perhaps only she understands to the audience.
As for Chung, I liked to watch her because it felt like the character was made for her physique. She was pretty, yet believably boisterous and rowdy.
Other characters whom I liked to watch was Amanda Tee, who played the teacher Lynette in the play. She played the typical office lady of Singapore who will gossip and backstab whoever she needs to. I thought she did so very well!
Undeniably, the theatre veterans Julie Wee, Fanny Kee and Chio Suping were good so I do not have anything much to add on to that.
I have to say the set and blocking did not impress me, and the singing did not do a lot for me. I prefered to watch the parts where the two girls got to converse with each other and occasionally with Shi-an, who played Marianne, the school prefect.
All in all, my biggest takeaway from this production is really to see the power of theatre. This production was sold out for all shows despite having a long run. I was scanning through carousell to see if anybody wanted tickets since my friend was selling hers. It was then I saw the whole list of people asking for tickets because they wanted to bring their NA friend/they are from NA themselves. I realised on a usual basis, these people would not really catch a theatre play. Normal is special because it is about them. Almost carthartic, it gives hope for and sheds light on what these students think and face on their path to adulthood.
It was also refreshing to know that big shots of the education system and the government graced the show too, possibly due to its sensitivity and the upcoming restructuring of the system. Perhaps, theatre plays a significant role in our society?