I literally procrastinated writing this for an entire month. I am a sloth. (I literally tried writing this 5 separate times)
I first watched 莎莎 (sha sha) in 2012 when my school brought us to see the play. That also meant that it was amongst my first few plays I’ve ever watched in my entire life and my first chinese theatre show ever (or second). This time around, I went back to Dramabox to volunteer for this particular show on 21 May. This meant that 莎莎 has dramatically (chuckles at my own pun) affected my puny little secondary school life.
The story and direction for 莎莎 is amazing, and I was so excited and thrilled to see much of the original direction had stayed together with the director. The story surrounds a young school girl named Shasha (which is a pun on “sand”). She wakes up in a big white room containing nothing but sand and does not remember how she got here. A man with an eery mask comes into the room and introduces himself to her as the caretaker of this kingdom, where they keep everybody who had committed suicide in separate rooms. She tries to escape him, knowing that after registration with the caretaker, she would be stuck in this place forever. She picked up the keys he accidentally dropped and sought shelter from other rooms she unlocked. Every room she entered, however, presented different situations and different people who committed suicide. Amongst them were the self harm girl, the girl who hung herself and the man who swallowed sleeping pills. After talking to them about their motivations and after thoughts, Shasha unwillingly reveals that she thought of ending her life because it felt like nobody around her cared about her. She ran to the construction area near her house and dug and dug at the sand, unknowingly falling into it, burying herself. The three friends she just made told her to escape this place and helped her to stall for time, telling her that in this kingdom, everybody will have to relive their death every seven minutes when the alarm sounds, driving home the idea to the audience that suicide doesn’t just end all worries and problems once and for all. Shasha manages to leave this place and go back to the human world eventually, but no without the help of the audience who played an active part in counselling and guiding her on how to deal with the problems she faced before.
Ultimately, this play is aimed at teenage students who may face issues yet not know how to deal with them. It is to remind them that suicide is not the solution and they should reach out to their friends if they feel something is wrong. Watching it again brought back all the memories and emotions. As much as children/students don’t say it out, at the back of their minds, they are bound to feel like a disappointment or they will be let down by others. “Not wanting to exist” is going to be a persistent thought. What 莎莎 did was to remind people to be more kind, more attentive and to believe in better days.
Other than the story line (when I first watched it, the 7 minutes death routine really got to me, I was just fourteen okay), I really liked the use of lights, sounds and masks. It was minimalistic, using lights to segregate and create space on stage and masks to allow characters to don on different personas. However, one change I disliked was how when I first watched it years ago, only the main character 莎莎 got to leave the kingdom. This time around, 莎莎 and the three other characters got to leave. This version, as I explained to the production team, made suicide seem reversible as if the consequences are not forever. When 莎莎 left alone, it felt like a dream that she encountered and maybe all of these were not real. Perhaps she fell asleep at the construction site and imagined the afterlife. I read this new version as “the truth”, where these people do exist and they are redeemed. My friend and I both saw this as overly ideal.
Really excited I dragged myself out of my comfort zone and made an effort to do something with Dramabox. Will be helping out with The Lesson in July. I really like the message and values that Dramabox stand for (community spirit, joy of giving, speaking… chinese…. Haha) and I would definitely hang around to see what’s in store!
(Yay! I did it!)