The play ‘Step Outta Line’ is centered around the idea of femininity, feminism, and what it is like to be a female in society. They chose different excerpts from several of Ovidia Wee’s plays and performed them as a montage of many different scenes, mostly about how women are treated and viewed in Asian countries. In this essay, I will be discussing what I feel were the key elements of the play that contributed to both its success and inadequacies.
The use of the motif, striking red pairs of heels, was used effectively to represent a few ideas, possibly power, control or dominance. The most memorable use of this motif, and quite possibly of the whole piece, was when they shoved the heels in their mouths. I feel like this represents that they had to bite down on their tongues and let the male figures in their lives control the situation and them. Often, we are asked to think of what it would be like if we were the victim in the situation, and we call it ‘putting yourself in their shoes’, and to imagine how they are feeling. I feel like this is the reason that shoes were used, and heels in particular as they are the one pair of shoes that is, strictly speaking, feminine. I feel like this is the director’s way of asking us to step into the shoes of the woman, or women, in the scene and understand exactly how she is feeling.
The colour of the high heels, a striking, shiny red, usually represents love, passion, longing, sexuality, courage, willpower, strength, action, vibrance, determination and many other strong emotions. Many of these emotions are represented in the play, for example, a woman’s love, longing and lust for another woman, or the courage, willpower, strength and determination to stand up against their male counterparts. The heels were not only used as an effective motif to convey different ideas, it was also used successfully as props – as schoolbooks, earrings, newborn children, etc.I believe the main reason why the play was so successful in conveying that discrimination against women existed and needed to be dealt with was because they used real-world examples. The situations acted out could very well happen as they had played it out, especially the one with TM Ong. They did not try to sugarcoat the situation, or exaggerate it too much, and I was able to understand how bad it truly was for women who are put in situations like that, confronting their boss, or their husband – someone who many would consider their superiors.
Perhaps the most controversial thing that probably all of our theatre reviews will examine was the scene which included audience interaction. I was sitting front and centre, right in front of the stage with no seats in front of me to hide from the women crawling on the ground whispering inappropriate things at us. I understand why some audience members would feel uncomfortable, and maybe they should have issued a warning that there would be contact during the piece, but personally, I quite enjoyed, and definitely appreciated that part of the piece. Making the audience uncomfortable had to have been their intention, as it was what the woman in the scene was feeling – intimidated, afraid, shocked, and uncomfortable with the situation she was put in. Judging by the comments of others, we definitely were all quite uncomfortable. This means that the play successfully allowed us to feel and understand how terribly embarrassing it would be to be put in a situation even just like that, which definitely was not as bad as something like workplace harassment.
However, as much as I appreciated the meaning of that scene, there were definitely flaws with it as well. While the actors were crawling on the ground whispering words like ‘penetration’ or ‘lesbian sex’, which I later realised were words from the actors on stage, many of us were engrossed by the women crawling and creeping to us that we did not pay attention to the scene happening on stage and before I knew it, I had missed out of an entire chunk of duologue. The director did not work out how the scene would work, maybe by the cast in the audience whispering softer, or they leaving the audience faster, and I missed the whole purpose of the scene.Another problem I had with the piece was that it was very monotonous, lacking any highs or lows. The scenes either had too many ideas in them or too little, making some of them draggy and losing the tension or quality that makes the scene work. An example of this would be the scene of the ‘Three Fat Virgins’.
The scene started off with the three having to solve some of their problems, but even after ten minutes or so of bantering back and forth, the problem was not solved and it had come to a stalemate. I was anticipating what would come next, but that was it, and it was time for the next scene. Maybe because the play was more of a montage than an actual full piece, but there was little to no character development in that scene, and many of the scenes. It could possibly mean that there was little development everyone seeing men and women as equals, but for the most part there were scenes that made no sense to me, like the Nü Wa scene, and while I was trying to understand, the scene was already over and we were moving on to the next scene even before being able to comprehend the previous.
Overall, while there are definitely striking flaws in the piece, there are also many quality elements of the piece. I am proud that the usually considered ‘controversial’ ideas like feminism or LGBTQ+ in lesbians was brought up so blatantly, especially in a conservative society like Singapore, where the only ‘discrimination’ we do not practice is racism. I do wish that there would be more plays like this, where we, as Singapore, are willing to discuss controversial topics and hopefully open the eyes of many narrow-minded Singaporeans.