A touching story of the isolation of an elderly woman who speaks only Teochew
Last Sunday, the Infinite team was charmed by one of Singapore’s highly acclaimed Wild Rice’s production, Grandmother Tongue. Written and directed by Thomas Lim, Grandmother Tongue draws on his personal experience in exploring a dimension of his Teochew roots. If you have not watched or heard about the show, here’s why you should.
An English educated grandson, Ah Boon (Tan Shou Chen), moves in with his 84-year-old Teochew speaking grandmother (Jalyn Han). Born in the early 80s (when mandarin was promoted as the default second language for ethnic Chinese), Ah Boon have lost touch his with his primordial dialect, and struggles to communicate with his grandmother.
A simple question asked by his grandmother, “have you eaten?”
“Oh I have eaten” was all he could manage in his native dialect.
Any further conversation was lost in translation and compromised.
As Ah Boon grew in his dialect proficiency; he becomes aware and begins to grasp his grandmother’s sacrifices, struggles and gradual alienation in our rapidly changing society. She’s unable to understand any free-to-air Television stations. She blames herself for being unable to claim an MRT top-up for senior citizens, as the letter was in English and translated for her past the due date. Even as she’s treated at the hospital, the medical team struggles to communicate with her. It’s heart breaking to witness how language barriers alienate a faction of our society. The very same fraction that raised us, took care of us and made sacrifices for us, in hope for us to have a better future. Ironically this ‘future’ seems not to accommodate their needs.
Grandmother Tongue is a show that will strike a chord with most audiences; particularly those with busy parents and are/were raised by their grandparents. Kudos to the script, the interaction between the grandmother and son were exceptionally candid and touching. Tan Shou Chen’s execution of the playful, caring grandson is superbly authentic. Jayln Han’s portrayal of the grandmother is brilliant, considering she’s decades younger than the character. You will laugh, cry and have a whirl of emotions, both humorous and heartrending.
You will also have a lot to reflect on. One Dialect/Language disappears from our world every 14days. Our dialect embeds a portion of our roots, culture and tradition. Perhaps its time we contemplate it’s role and status in our society.
For those of you who are fortunate to have your grandparents still around, do treasure and spend more time with them.
A show not to be missed. Due to overwhelming response, two additional 8pm shows have been added: 8 October & 15 October, grab your tickets while you can. 🙂
Date: 28th September – 21st October 2017
Venue: School Of The Arts Studio Theatre
Time: Tuesday to Saturday – 8pm, Saturday & Sunday – 3pm
Admission: From $35