Before we see The Doctor, we hear of him; from the voice of a disillusioned nurse working in a psychiatric ward. She mourns the ordinariness of her days, the madness that looms in every corner, and her only consolation is The Doctor. He is the closest to the epitome of human being – rational, attractive, charming, and of course, fully functional. And as he treats, prescribes, and entertains the antics of his disordered patients, we catch a glimpse of his kindness, a convincing portrayal of humanity.
Directed by Chloe Lim, the production is anything but subtle. The Doctor, played at full tilt by the talented Jonathan Sim, is your mad institutionalised killer, disguising himself in a white coat and heavy thick-rimmed glasses. It is impossible to ignore his previous role as the mischievous Puck in a staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and he has since then taken a complete refreshing turn, The Doctor perhaps being one of his biggest achievements. In a strange twist, he unfolds himself as the mastermind, a puppeteer psychopath who runs the show, eventually killing all his patients by overdosing them, all of which are carried out by the naïve nurse, played by Hiba Khalid. He later proceeds to strangle her. Celine Ng, Terence Then, Emily Chen, and Amashi de Mel play his patients, all with different mental disorders.
The formal elements of the play seem rather chaotic to me, and the quick change of lights can often be blinding and intrusive, although it adds to the chaotic aspects of the show. Amashi’s singing as the lights fade is haunting, providing a delicate balance to the otherwise tumultuous scenes involving the patients. But their representations of the specific disorders are, nonetheless, to be applauded.
As the title suggests, “The Room I See” centres on madness and perspectives, which has always been entwined with one another. The disordered patients and even the nurse, to a certain extent, are all disillusioned, The Doctor being the only rational being within the institution. He does not see blue skies and white clouds as the schizophrenic does, he does not bow down to the bipolar patient who proclaims herself as god, he entertains the obsessive compulsive’s desire for order by entering the ward twice, and he consoles the childish nature of the depressive.
As The Doctor shows us, madness is, in fact, a matter of perspective. But the sane and the insane do not exist as clear-cut dichotomies. In his line of work, he too, has been driven into insanity. Madness is simply a different way of seeing things, but whether or not it is ultimately destructive remains unresolved.
Perhaps, what “The Room I See” suggests is, the average madman is the one who shows his madness to the world. He is unable to retain it within, and it overwhelms him. But the smart madman disguises it. And he is, perhaps, the dangerous one of all.
Jonathan Sim Than Wen
Celine Ng Kim Lin
Emily Chen Sue Mei
Amashi de Mel
Written and Directed by
Chloe Lim Xin Ying
By: Nora Ramli