THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO PRETTY GIRLS MADE ME QUESTION MY MORALS
Written by Radio Heatwave on May 29, 2019
Coming from a background of drama and theatre, I’ve always found joy in watching plays and observing how other actors embody their characters, which is why I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to watch this play. I didn’t do much research about the play before attending it because I wanted to be completely immersed in the experience on the day itself.
You know how plays and movies go; It starts off with our protagonist and we follow them on their journey of self-discovery, self-healing and overall self-improvement. All is well in the end and we leave with the comfort that the characters all have the endings they rightfully deserve.
This Is What Happens to Pretty Girls was not that kind of play.
Going into the experience “blind”, I only knew the play was about sexual assault. To be honest, I personally had very low hopes for a Singaporean play and its ability to discuss this sensitive topic well, given we very rarely talk about it in the open. By the end of the night, I was mind blown in every way.
The first aspect of the play which really caught my attention was the beautiful set design.
At first glance, the three gigantic structures that frame the stage look like unsuspecting works of wooden art. Upon closer inspection (and as so lovingly pointed out by my date, Karisha), I learnt that each structure was an abstract form of three main parts of the female body; the breasts, belly and nether region, and the butt. Each of the structure was lit by pink, orange, and blue light respectively. The stage was also very clearly divided into distinct sections for each character to be bounded by, making it easier for the audience to visualise a different place and time for each scene. Kudos to the set designer for such an amazing piece of work! I can’t stop thinking about it, even though I watched this play weeks ago.
A good play wouldn’t be complete without a phenomenal performance from the actors who make us believe the characters’ compelling stories. With a cast filled with brilliant performers like Adrian Pang, Oon Shu An, Thomas Pang, and so many more, it was difficult to not be entranced by the charms of their characters and be sucked into their world. At times, I felt like I wanted to hug and tell them “Everything will be okay” and then cry with them. Other times I truly felt like cussing them out. The actors have an amazing way of making you sympathise with them, even if they’re not 100% innocent. Not to give too much away, but it’s always the characters you root for that end up disappointing you.
And this is one of the main reasons why I felt the play echoes real life well. The play has a way of breaking down situations and dilemmas into more than just black and white. Its main focus was always the grey part. Nothing is every fully right, wrong or plain justified in this world.
The realisation of how much ‘grey’ exists in our world made me question myself. After a shocking revelation of how two of the characters we’d never put together are connected, I started to wonder if people truly are capable of change. Or will their past mistakes always come back to haunt and define them? I thought that this twist in the story provides a unique commentary on Cancel Culture in our day and age. Furthermore, I felt that the play was trying to tell us that we can’t depend on others to make the right choice for ourselves.
My own beliefs of feminism even came into a question when the champion-of-women’s-rights character in the play does something that I believe goes against everything a feminist believes in. I thought, “If someone as educated as her could abandon all her beliefs and teachings for somebody she loved, what’s stopping those of us lesser than her from doing the same thing?”
I left the play satisfied with the ending of some characters and unsatisfied with others’, which I guess is our reality in this world. We don’t always get what we deserve. To add on to this, I still had a ton of unanswered questions in my head about ethics, morals and what’s right.
I do think the playwright wanted for there to be this uncertainty as only when we question ourselves can we truly reflect on the consequences of our actions on ourselves and those around us.