July 2017, Drama Centre Black Box, Singapore
Playwright: Lucas Ho
Director: Huzir Sulaiman
Set Designer: Aaron Yap
Lighting Designer: Andy Lim
Produced by Checkpoint Theatre
FRAGO talks about a group of 30 year-olds going back for their 7th reservist in an armoured infantry camp. The script did not have much actions or climaxes; for most parts of the play, what we see are reservist personnels idle-chatting or dreaming during their periods of waiting and pauses between phases of their training. It is through these moments of interaction (and non-interaction) with each other that we see the different faces of these characters, their mentality, and the kinds of problems and issues they have in their outside world. In a nutshell, this is a very quiet piece, and hence requires a very subtle set that will not distract the audience away from the performance.
The original concept of the director is to have a full-size backdrop in the style of Chinese painting, as armoured infantry men, commanders and officers comprised mainly of ethnically Chinese people. Taking into consideration that the performance style is going to be very physical and stylised, the design gradually revolved to have a 3-sided panels with panoramic stylised Chinese landscape painting. These stylised Chinese landscape paintings, unlike the more traditional styles, are deliberately designed to be relatively more barren and shows more negative spaces, and together with the inclusion of a few SAF armoured vehicles appearing sparingly in the foreground, attempts to bring out the foresty yet “empty” feel of a typical outfield training scenery. The paintings are also deliberately created in tones of dark green over a black base, so that during quiet moments when the focus should be entire on the actors, the panels will blend into darkness as much as possible. But in dramatic moments, different lighting effects can also be applied to the panels to give different illumination and dramatic effects.
The performance space is marked out with a digital camo border, and depending on which perspective you are looking from, it can either suggest the sense of a trapped space where these reservist personnels are forced to live together temporarily for their reservist training, or that it is a sanctuary for these reservist personnels to seek temporary refugee from the “manly” problems they have to face daily.
“Props” are mimed and no furnitures used, so as to free up as much floor space as possible to facilitate performance.