By Yasmeen Banu
W!LD RICE has kick-started its year-long imagiNATION season with its first show- Public Enemy, at the newly furbished Victoria Theatre. The new production takes inspiration from Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 classic, which deals with an individual’s fight for truth and the repercussions of going head-to-head with an equally strong individual’s desire to maintain the status quo.
The cast, a combination of captivating actors is led by Ivan Heng, a scientist who discovers the truth which could cripple an entire nation, and Lim Kay Siu, a minister who refuses to let any of the lethal discoveries fall on public ears. They are joined by Serene Chan, Brendon Fernandez, Kee Thuan Chye, R Chandran, John Sebastian Tan, Gerald Chew, Yap Yi Kai, and Alexa Wong.
Under the direction of Glen Goei, the play not only revolves around democracy, politics, justice, and the media, but it also covers a spectrum of human sentiments from betrayal to selfishness.
The play immerses the audience through its subtle ambient sound effects- unnoticeable for those engrossed in the scene, its involvement with the audience in its act, and its showcase of raw and different facets of character revolving around each actor.
Public Enemy is thought provoking and it questions fundamental ideologies that bind every democratic nation to its political power dynamics, every journalist to truth, every individual to right of expression, and every man of power to fairness.
But democracy itself could be a deeply flawed concept, journalists could have their pens pattering towards the wishes of the majority instead of the truth, individuals could only say so much before being warned of consequences, blind to the agenda of men in power, and men in power could then have their own agenda.
Who then, is the bigger evil?
“The minority – the men who see things from a different angle, the men who are true to what they see, who dare to disagree with how the stupid majority see the world – we are right.” – Dr. Thomas Chee, Act IV
For the minority who has long been oppressed or cast aside by the majority, this play might provide a sense of solidarity or comfort on what it means to stand up for what is believed to be right despite the disapproval of the masses.
Dr. Chee’s dialogue in one of the act was “I am the strongest man in the world because I stand alone”, and it truly sends a wave of impact through the audience as it reflects on one of the extreme repercussion of having enough courage to speak out.
Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of individuals who eventually became victims of either a mob mentality or who received the bitter end of punishment from leaders after voicing out their opinion over sensitive subjects. It matters not if one speaks or acts on the intention of goodwill, because once it’s out, the sequence of events is hardly within one’s control.
From Socrates, Galileo Galilei, Nikola Tesla to Liu Xiaobo, individuals that were ahead of their time were bogged down either by the media, the masses or leaders that would not hear alternative interpretations to what they would deem “right”.
Is every nation defined by its masses who abides by the norm as led by leaders or the minority who goes against the current led by truth? Who gets to ascertain norms and how far will truth prevail?
Public Enemy explores the different perspectives of each character relatable in our everyday lives and the lengths the characters would go to to protect their own version of the truth. More importantly than relating to the common characters in society, Public Enemy shouts out to those who care to think or reflect about the country’s democratic process, and what democracy could possibly mean.
Public Enemy will be playing at the Victoria Theatre till 25 April. Tickets are sold at SISTIC.