THE REAL FORENSIC
Post Theater, 27-28 Jan. 2001, The Substation Guinness Theatre
Source: The Arts Magazine, Singapore, June 2001 By Otto Fong
Dr Mark Benecke is one of Germany's leading forensic biologists and a celebrated public speaker. His works, including many books and journals, can be found in libraries, bookstores and on his web site.
The good doctor is real. Murat Belcant, the actor playing Benecke in The Real Forensic, was fictional. Belcant's unlikely credits included major Hollywood productions - such as Eyes Wide Shut and Die Hard II.
A spartan set included a table, a notebook computer, and a 'corpse' wrapped in white cloth. 26 shoebox-sized containers lined up in sequence. A screen behind alternated between video clips, dance music stored in the notebook, and projections of the contents of the containers. The opening of each box by Belcant/Benecke signaled the beginning of each of the 26 segments in the script by Klaus Fehling.
Belcant/Benecke introduced himself before launching into a speech on the complexities of life. Even as the Corpse, played by Deng Fuquan, began exploring everything around it, Benecke continued speaking and opening box after box. One contained a video-taped sequence on cell division, another, mushrooms. There were even worms which resembled maggots. The topic shhted to using the insects preying on decomposing corpse to aid criminal investigation, and gradually one realised the structure of a 'lecture' would be the story.
What was enjoyable about The Real Forensic was the blurring of line between theatre and life. Was Forensic a dramatised lecture, or theatre in the deceptive form of a lecture?
Director, Max Schumacher, also blurred the line between the researched and the researcher. While the coverage of Benecke's work was insightful, segments documenting his professional life as a media celebrity were limited to newspaper clippings and video footages of his daily cycle to his office. But what made him choose this field7 How does he stomach his dinner after a day in the office7 Attempts to put the researcher under any kind of meaningful scrutiny were less successful.
Deng's Corpse was an apt addition to the local presentation of the play as it implicated the audience. While Benecke was able to draw scientific data and philosophies from corpses, this silent Corpse was unable to reciprocate. Benecke resisted examination as much as he politely rejected the Corpse's display of physical closeness. Hence, Deng's portrayal was limited to futile gestures of affection such as sucking the fingers of Benecke.
During the post-performance dialogue session, it was revealed that the real Dr Benecke had been onstage, explaining the overwhelming realism. But it also served as a reminder that the creators of Forensic were more interested in toying with our minds rather than hearts.