‘Complicated’ is just the word we use when we don’t have ways to talk about the simplest of things.”
The Way We Go follows Agatha Mao, former principal of the Convent of Our Lady of Lourdes, as she experiences the greatest loves of her life: Edmund, her intellectual partner, and Violet, her best friend.
Sprawling over 12 years, this tender story of love and friendship between outsiders also brings into relief the fraught relationship of former students Lee and Gillian, who come to ask the same questions as their elders: What are the costs of love? Why do people need each other? What’s at stake when we reach out?
Written with wit and affection, The Way We Go is a sensitive meditation on growing up and growing old. It looks at love in places where we least seek it; the love for learning, life, and language; the love between friends and kindred spirits. Above all, The Way We Go celebrates love in all its simplicity and complexity.
Starring Lydia Look, Neo Swee Lin, Patrick Teoh, Julie Wee, and Chng Xin Xuan
Playwright: Joel Tan
Director: Claire Wong
the play opens with a funeral, indicated by the coffin in the set, placed in the center of the stage. the theatre proved to be an intimate location, an enclosed black box, the audience packed in the middle of the room, rows and rows of us back there. the first few rows were occupied by the vip, the rest of us relegated to the rows further behind. joel tan sat much further behind, to my surprise; i thought he might have watched it many times.
i did not cry while watching it as i had expected myself to, but my emotions were dragged up to a choking feeling in my throat–most poignant was the sense of helplessness faced by agatha and her lover as her mortality reared its ugly head at a time in her life where it was still considered as “too soon”. his helplessness in the inability to compensate for his abandoning her, and her helplessness in holding herself together. there was some form of pervasive sense of loss, a much deeper kind of loss beyond what we would usually consider to be losses; the passing of time and the inability to return to or recreate the past.
i’d call it an intrinsically singaporean play, if not for the cast, it’d be for the esoteric (? not exactly, but i can’t find a better word yet) jokes; laughter was certainly accorded where it was due, e.g “economics? you mean pretend-mathematics” and other jokes about university life, the society, the teaching industry, etc. the setting of a convent school brought me back to my secondary school days, even with the way they adjusted their pinafores, the surreptitious affairs; girls trying to find themselves and a place in this country, this world. what i enjoyed the most was watching them grow up. without any particularly life-changing events, just the things that happen as time goes by; them splitting up because of the need to find themselves after having “grown too much into each other that [they] were pulling away in different directions”. (sometimes love’s not enough.)
it was so very earnestly human, so sincere; there was a great consistency of themes and ideas throughout the play, the beginning and the end weaved smoothly into each other. i commented, with exasperation at my inability to describe it in sufficiently apt terms, that it was like a “really well-written essay”. i left the theatre thinking about the play for the rest of the night, for a few days after as well. it was that impressionable, and brought my mind back to hyde’s idea–art as a gift with transformative forces. it was something i gladly received with open hands.