Checkpoint Theatre’s Recalling Mother, which comes to Adelaide from Singapore for the OzAsia Festival, is a conversation in all conceivable senses of the word.
It was a conversation between multi-disciplinary artists and friends Claire Wong and Noorlinah Mohamed that inspired the work’s first iteration in 2009.
“How it started was we would get together and we would talk as friends,” says Wong. “And we’ve incorporated this aspect in the play itself.
“And the stories about our mothers just came about as a conversation between friends, but we realised there was something there we wanted to explore because we both shared many similarities in terms of our relationships with our mothers.”
Written, directed, and performed by Wong and Mohamed, Recalling Mother is driven by personal experience.
While it started out as an exploration of the generational differences between the pair and their mothers, it changes in step with the changes in Wong and Mohamed’s lives.
Recent iterations delve much more deeply into issues of ageing and dependency. In this sense, the two are constantly in conversation with the work itself; assessing what of their real-world lives should be reflected on stage.
The decision to continuously transform the play in this way – rather than leaving it as a reflection of a moment in time – seemed instinctive to Wong and Mohamed.
“We were interested, as actors, as creators of the piece, to have a living play,” says Wong.
“We wanted to stage a performance that is continuing to play out not just on stage but in life as well,” adds Mohamed.
“We also wanted to challenge ourselves and see if there’s another way of telling the story: Is there a different way to present it? Is there a different way to structure it?”
The 2017 version of the show, then, is a whole new evolution of a work that has been performed in 2006, 2009, 2015, and in 2016.
This latest version doesn’t just include new material, but also an after-show audience Q&A – a feature the women decided to make permanent after observing its power during previous performances.
“The talkback has always been designed not to talk about the creative process, but to talk about the audience’s relationship with their mothers or somebody they love,” says Mohamed.
“In 2015, we had presented the work in a different form,” says Wong. “We didn’t have a talkback immediately, but after that performance we went down to the reception and people just kept coming up to us and talking.
“And so in the 2016 version we consciously incorporated that.
“It was pretty amazing, especially in the Singapore version of the work where audiences aren’t so often that open about very personal things in public. It was kind of amazing, that sense of community – the theatre really had enabled something bigger than the work presented.”
And in bringing this conversation to Adelaide, they will be sparking something bigger in this city, too.
Recalling Mother will be performed on September 22 and 23 at the Space Theatre as part of the OzAsia Festival, which opens next week.
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