Who knew cats had it in them

The nice thing about watching a play on opening night is that it cuts down on the extraneous hype, expectations and stereotypes that typically mushroom in the wake of its debut. So before tonight's play, I knew Ovidia Yu was a decent playwright (by reputation only, because I hadn't seen or read anything by her before) and I knew The Silence of the Kittens was about cats, a subject that's been close to my heart even before Ink. And that was about it.

The Silence of the Kittens fell into what I mentally, and uneducatedly, classify as That Singapore Play: the literal resides side-by-side with the symbolic onstage, actors take on multiple roles which overlap and enrich each other (or sometimes don't) --- a consciously theatrical approach to real life, one might say. It's not a bad thing, it's just a way of telling a story.

And with an approach like this, to describe The Silence of the Kittens as "the play about cats", as I said two paragraphs ago or told the box office person when I collected my tickets, is about as accurate as saying that King Lear is about an old man or Buffy is about vampires. That is to say, in five words or less, that's what it's about --- but it's so, so much more.

But it's not my place to give away the laundry list of layers and symbolism in this play. Suffice to say I'd never considered that cats could mean so much or say so much about this strange little society we live in. And that I honestly didn't pay deserved attention to the Sars-hysteria-induced cat-culling of 2003 because, well, it's not an excuse but I was working my butt off at the time --- but now I wish I'd seen more then.

Because Ovidia Yu is right. It's not just about terrorising some poor defenceless animal. It's about the problems with this place that no one seems to sit up and notice, least of all when the general elections swing around and it really, really matters. You don't even have to like cats to get this play. You just have to be a person with a sense of human decency.

So go see the play. The Silence of the Kittens plays until Sunday (6 August). Then go home and hug your cat --- whatever "cat" means to you.


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At 8/02/2006 8:20 pm , Blogger TaLieSin said...

I really liked Alfian Sa'at's play - which had its own cat-references too, since SARS formed the putative backdrop for the piece. A pity Shaun and I did not catch you yesterday as we were coming out of the National Museum!

I was curious as to why you coined the name "Ink" for your cat. Does it have anything to do with a particular fantasy novel titled 'Secrets of the Jin-shei'?

At 8/02/2006 9:03 pm , Blogger Tym said...

The National Library, you mean? :)

And no, no, the origins of Ink's name is very prosaic: he's all-white except for his black tail and four black spots on his body. Hence: Ink. (He also enjoys chewing on and destroying my ballpoint pens when he can sneak one past me, because he thinks they're all laser pointers.)

At any rate, he was given the name before we took him in, so we sorta inherited the name with him.

At 8/03/2006 10:45 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh hey, I was there on opening night too!

At 8/04/2006 8:17 pm , Blogger TaLieSin said...

The interesting thing about the novel is that two of the characters, both girls, formed a "sister" bond over this cat that they rescued (which one of them named Ink). Later they became enemies on opposing sides in a civil war, but right at the end when the loyalists were winning, the loyalist girl turned up to try and save her rebel leader friend, even fighting her fellow Imperial Guardsmen to do so.

She died trying, but there was this moment in their flight when the rebel girl asked "why are you doing this, after how I've treated you?" and the loyalist replied, "because you're my cat". Interesting coincidence, or more? ;)

At 8/19/2006 4:18 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taliesin said:

"...Interesting coincidence, or more? ;)..."

More [grin].

Signed, The Author.


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