Pangdemonium's staging of TRIBES tackles love, silently

Pangdemonium's staging of TRIBES tackles love, silently

Hear, hear

Text: Adibah Isa

Image: Pangdemonium
Image: Crispian Chan

Dysfunctional families form the best of comedies. Throw two with their own hang-ups on deaf culture, and you have a riot. Ethel Yap plays Sylvia, a hearing girl in a deaf family

According to 27-year old Ethel Yap, TRIBES contains a love story doomed from the start. This dramatic notion is put forth by her character's collision with Thomas Pang's Billy, a deaf boy growing up in a hearing family. It might or might not end well — but from the looks of it, Yap's not betting on the relationship's success.

Staged by local theatre troupe Pangdemonium, TRIBES lets audiences in on the trials and tribulations of being both deaf and hearing — and the dysfunctional families that come attached to it. Yap, along with Pang, took sign language lessons for three months before starting rehearsals. For the young actress, it's one of her roles that she's hugely emotionally invested in.

For how do you convey the language of love without words? It's a stretch for Yap, whose hearing character has to deal with her impending loss of hearing, prejudices about deaf people as well as baggage regarding her character's parents.

"As a hearing individual, I'm very rooted and tied to my hearing ability and over-reliance on words," she explains. "Similarly, a deaf person grows up without the ability to hear, and finds other ways by touch, facial expressions and of course the use of sign."

Communication could very well be the root of evil in this play, or it could be the very thing that holds Sylvia and Billy together — whether in words or gestures. Find out more when TRIBES premieres on 22 May.

TRIBES plays at the Drama Centre Theatre from 22 May to 7 June 2015. Tickets are available from Sistic