TBNG at the Theatre: Making Peace with a Lion



'Lion' is the second play in a series of three under The Wright Stuff Festival 2021 organized by The Toy Factory. The trio of plays focus on the theme of “inwards” as they seek to encourage greater introspection amidst this time of relative isolation.


The third installment of the series of plays, 'SKIN', premieres tonight (15 Oct 2021) at 8pm at the Gateway Theatre. You can get your tickets here.

 

Forgive and forget? It’s easier said than done, especially when it’s the bully that tormented you years ago.


Jedidiah Huang’s LION deals with the reality of coming face to face with past hurt and the messiness of unresolved issues and its aftermath. While offering us common advice, the well-staged performance by an intimate cast of four surely made us think about how we would choose to act when given the chance to forgive and forget.


Set in an orphanage, Bruce (played by Wayne Lim), a man who’s more than just a little rough around the edges, seeks to adopt Danial (Bryan Tee), who hasn’t had much luck in finding a family. However, standing in his way is Jack (Clement Yeo), an old acquaintance from secondary school who was once at the receiving end of many of Bruce’s cruel pranks.


The premise is simple yet intriguing – can we truly let go of the past for the good of those around us?


The performance answers these questions artfully by contrasting the characters of Jack and Sharon Mah’s Pastor Samantha, otherwise called “Sam”, who oversees the orphanage. Despite both having had to deal with physical and emotional scars, only Sam has had the courage to admit her fears and unresolved trauma. She is the only one who truly walks out of the shadows and becomes the emotional anchor of those around her. As the voice of reason and understanding, she is juxtaposed alongside Jack, who, despite his best intentions, is ultimately consumed by his hatred for Bruce.


(From left to right) Wayne Lim as Bruce, Bryan Tee as Danial, Sharon Mah as Pastor Samantha, and Clement Yeo as Jack. | Photographer: Yu Khing Poh

On that note, we found the character arc of Jack and Sam to be masterfully portrayed with recollections of their past translating into their motivations and present behavior.


However, the characters of Bruce and Daniel were comparatively under-developed. We felt that opportunities to add complexity to their personalities were not always utilized – with the contrast between the former’s masculinity and the latter’s relative femininity left unexplored. In fact, due to significant foreshadowing, we had initially assumed that this would be the central focus of the play, which revealed itself to be the dynamic between Bruce and Jack instead.


Bruce (Wayne Lim) lifting Jack (Clement Yeo).

While the performances were well-paced, it sped up greatly towards the end with a packed sequence of events leading to a sudden and rather surprising outcome. Audiences who enjoy sudden twists would enjoy this ending, although others might feel unease at some of the unresolved tension and its grim conclusion.


Jack (Clement Yeo) the moment after he confronts Bruce, his bully from the past.

Nonetheless, regardless of how we feel about the ending, it does little to discount the powerful narrative. It even forces us to think deeper about the simple but profound difference between owning our past, and allowing it to own us.

 

As a long-standing initiative, the Wright Stuff Festival has been instrumental in discovering budding playwrights by giving then a platform to refine their works under the mentorship of established professionals. Over a year in the making, 'Lion' is Jedidiah Huang’s debut play and has since sold out to great reception.