Sunday 2015-05-10

At the Esplanade recently, Oliver Chong showed his version of Haresh Sharma's Off Centre, which despite having been written in 1993, is already showing its age as it deals with mental health.

One character appears schizophrenic, while another appears bi-polar; Sharma puts their best feet forward as each will break character to explain their behaviors to the audience. Had the play stopped at this bridge-building, it would still be a success story for neurodiversity. However, the play plows on.

As the annotations rationalize the romance between the two, their story lines begin to diverge, with a tragic ending for the one who didn't take his meds, and a happy one for the one who did. To put a point on the ignorance in this play, just imagine this story was about two homosexuals in love: one would commit suicide, and the other would take some meds, become straight, and move on.

Sharma was in his 20s when he wrote this, so it's likely an artifact of his youth and the perverse incentives created when he took money from the State to write it.