Somewhere in What Did You Learn Today?, it’s subtly pointed out that one of the things we get out of school is, basically, self-doubt.
One of the things you can get out of watching What Did You Learn Today? is self-confidence.
If you happen to catch it with an audience as game to participate as I did.
Sean Tobin and Natalie Hennedige’s piece is a collection of different scenarios that play on the dynamics of characters played by husband-and-wife theatre actors Lim Kay Siu and Neo Swee Lin. In between these are what they call “group meditations”, i.e., the audience is encouraged to speak their thoughts on what life has taught them, what they want to learn, what they have trouble learning.
It’s the kind of device that could have fallen flat, but surprise surprise, the crowd chipped in, lending to the night’s relaxed and very casual atmosphere.
Casual as in to weave in the “switch off your HP” bit, KS and SL asked audiences to check their phones to see if anyone had messaged them – and got one of them to read the message aloud.
All in good fun. But at the same time, it felt too loose. The work casually moves on from one scene to another, picking up a hot topic, dropping it for another one — although most of it seemed to really just go for the whole “school sucks” angle.
As a whole, I never knew what it was trying to tell me, even as KS and SL’s wonderful chemistry as a real-life couple kept things moving.
While it sort of fizzles in the end, there were a number of memorable scenes that initially engaged me: KS and SL re-enacting a condensed love story – from a couple’s kiddie crush all the way to an old one making love (or at least trying to). Somewhere, you’ve got them making out. Teehee.
There’s a nice absurdist bit too, where the teacher (SL) is, literally, in “blah blah” lecture mode and a bored student (KS) decides to turn that into his very own rhythmic bed and goes all hiphop on her.
But it’s the anecdotal moments that gave this meandering piece a semblance of emotional ballast – as when SL recalls her life as a child living with her mother who made lampshades.
And of course, the main thing I learnt tonight was that KS’s an awesome dude. His anecdotes about growing up in a UK boarding school – playing violin and rugby and getting a rude wake-up call realising he’s Asian. And he can still play the violin — better than the dude in Orpheus Marathon!
Nice one KS.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have to do a bit more homework on this one.
It’s on until Friday. Details here.