Love is the Last Thing on my Mind (2020), Review

Love is the Last Thing on my Mind
30 October 2020, 8:00pm


Love is the Last Thing on my MindSimple, poignant reminder to love

Love is the last thing on my mind is a simple but meaningful work, performed by the graduating students of NAFA’s Diploma in Theatre (Mandarin Drama), as part of The Finger Players’ Present/Future season. Originally written by Ang Hui Bin for a community-touring production for seniors back in 2015, the piece has been updated by playwright-director Ong Kian Sin, with input from the current cast. This article is of the live performance in the theatre with a very limited audience, which was also livestreamed for digital viewing.

The set’s centrepiece is a colourful but barren tree, constructed out of bamboo poles in different shades. There is just one lone leaf hanging precariously off a branch on the tree. The older characters, residents from an elder-care home, refer to it as an old, sickly tree, which ought to be chopped down, but it stands there grandly, not quite ready to give way.

Through a series of vignettes, the play questions how love is expressed and how love is lost. A father who is overprotective of his young daughter, Jun Jun, reminds her not to go outdoors, because that’s where the haze and unknown viruses lurk. He disallows Jun Jun from playing in the park with other children.

The elder-care home residents often bicker with one another over mundane things. They prefer to stay indoors in air-conditioned comfort, complaining about the outdoors. The constant noise pollution from construction around the home slowly becomes a norm they have to get used to.

A loving couple is slowly drawn apart due to lack of proper communication, and perhaps, physical intimacy. They navigate separately through busy streets, eyes always affixed to their mobile phones, texting one another when they are not together, but barely talk to each other when they are in the same space.

However, not all is lost, because love may still appear in unexpected ways. Two elderly residents at the home – one single, the other widowed – find companionship in each other to last through their later years. The young Jun Jun strikes up a conversation with a caterpillar on the old tree, who teaches her that everything has its own time and space. She even attempts to bring the caterpillar home to keep as a pet, much to the disapproval of her father.

The six graduating students make for a tightly-knit ensemble. They each play a number of characters, switching comfortably between roles of different ages and various accents comfortably. The female actor performing the role of little Jun Jun is especially charming in her portrayal, with child-like innocence and earnestness.

Everyday items, such as slippers, folding fans and paddings, are turned into object puppetry, helping to bring to life butterflies of different shapes and sizes. Towards the end of the play, the caterpillar (a puppet made from a mop head) metamorphosises into a butterfly, a recurring motif throughout the play. This butterfly motif, perhaps, represents a glimpse of hope during times of despair.

“Love is a form of antiseptic”, proclaims the overprotective father towards the end of the play. The vignettes in Love show how love can be expressed (and overlooked) in different ways. This play reminds us to find ways of expressing our love and care to the ones dear to us, especially in these uncertain times.

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Centre 42 documents the creation process performances of the four productions in The Finger Player’s (TFP) The Present/Future Season. This documentation partnership with TFP aims to capture the inner workings of staging a production, illuminate the working relationships between practitioners and students, and create a textual record of the performance. Each production is documented by two writers, one focused on the performance-making process, and the other on the performance itself. The Present/Future Season was presented by TFP in collaboration with Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), and ran from 7 Oct to 8 Nov 2020.

Read other articles in the C42 Documents: The Present/Future Season series:

productions & stagings