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Theatre Review (Singapore): ‘Women of Asia’ by Asa Gim Palomera

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Generasia presented Women of Asia, written by Asa Gim Palomera, at the Flexible Space at LaSalle College of the Arts, from June 19-28 2014.

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Palomera’s script is full of beautiful analogies and effective metaphors, and her words easily cut and shake the spirit of the audience with great intention, in order to successfully bring forth the plight of women in some parts of Asia.

From India, we saw Nora Samosir playing a young bride who was tortured by her mother-in-law only to become a wicked torturer to her own daughter-in-law. Perhaps one of the ironies of such Indian households is why a woman would do this to another woman – especially when she herself has gone through the same thing. The conclusion from Palomera’s play shows that the reason may be that all they know. These women may be just doing what they’ve learnt is the “right” and “normal” way of doing things in that part of the world.

Another powerful story was about Filipino women who think they are going to a Western country for a better life, only to be sold into a brothel, where they endure brutality, humiliation and inhumane treatment. Actress Nadia Abdul Rahman gave a truly mesmerising performance as the hapless prostitute here and also as an Indian bride in the vignette described above. Seamlessly executing both Filipino and Indian accents that were natural and convincing, Abdul Rahman is a fresh face in acting circles, but one to watch out for.

In one of the lighter vignettes we saw Benedict Hew put on a perfect Texan accent to play a husband married to a traditional Korean wife. Both spouses find that many disparities show up in their marriage due to their different backgrounds and cultures, despite being of the same race.

It has to be said that unlike Vernetta Lopez, who tried (and failed) to fake a Southern U.S. accent in the musical Grease but couldn’t shake off her Singaporean-accented base, Hew completely refigured his entire tone to give a very convincing Texan voice to his American character. He is definitely one to look out for in upcoming theatre seasons.

The sad truth is that though Women of Asia was written 20 years ago, the issues it raises about how women are treated are still very much relevant today. So, whilst Palomera’s play doesn’t delve deeper into the whys, hows and what we can do to help these Asian women (and maybe the truth is we can’t help), it does present strong stories that leave you thinking about the issues some women in some parts of Asia face – and maybe even secretly grateful you’re not one of them.

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.