Reflection on Literature Festival 2019 #2

I found all the performances during ‘Without Measure’to be breathtakingly entertaining and was thoroughly impressed with the presentations of our J2 seniors. I think that the dramatisation really helped me to visualise the purpose and message of the various texts.

One of the performances that piqued my interest was that of A Bout, adapted from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Although I have yet to read the entire play, I felt that the performance was a creative take on the conflicts and dynamics between George and Martha. The conflicts between the two were framed as a series of boxing matches, which had a rather whimsical mood to it. The enthusiastic announcer, the pompous entries of both “contestants” and the blaring fanfare that plays after each round was amusing and created a grandiose and theatrical atmosphere. However, beyond the entertainment value of this setup lies the intensity of the relationship between the two. Rather than inflicting physical wounds on their opponents as in a normal boxing match, the two engaged verbal abuse and mockery of each other, causing psychological wounds. The last round of the boxing match was especially impactful as Martha broke down emotionally from George’s mention of their son’s death. She became incredibly emotional and distraught, stuck in a state of denial, exclaiming “You can’t do that!”.

This contrasted with the whimsical tone of the earlier part of the performance and of the setting, driving home the impact of George’s attack. The previous rounds of the match were comparatively low-stakes, as they were only mere jabs at their pride and insecurities, or a physical attack in the case of the third round. The impact and damage inflicted pales in comparison to the raw emotion expressed in the final round. Through these battles, it shows the dysfunctional nature of their relationship, where they regularly engage in aggression against each other, which sometimes escalate into something much more sinister and serious as to deal a heavy blow to each other’s emotional wellbeing. Furthermore, while there is a winner being declared for each round, we see no real reward for winning these battles other than for the sake of their pride. It highlights the futility and pointlessness of these battles, which do nothing but hurt each other. 

However, the last scene contradicts the impression of their relationship being hostile and antagonistic. Martha leans on George, and the pair share an intimate moment where Martha admits she is afraid. I feel that this was a powerful scene as it shows that despite the constant hostility and aggressiveness between the two, they can still have these sensitive moments where they are comfortable with showing weakness and vulnerability to each other. I think this is a nice contrast as it suggests that the two genuinely care for each other despite their frequent arguments. It adds complexity to the relationship between the two, as they do not always behave in the toxic manner being portrayed by the first part of the performance, and that they are capable of showing concern and thoughtfulness to the other.

Leslie Yip (19-I4)

This reflection piece was written in response to the college’s 1st Literature Festival, which saw JC2 Literature students construct and perform their own interpretations of their set texts.

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