Without Reason

Without Reason was staged 2 Aug to 4 Aug this year and I was involved doing surtitles so I had a chance to be part of the production. The actors were all unbelievably fun and the show ran well.

Without Reason was part of M1 Peer Pleasure, a youth theatre festival. The story surrounds the main characters Wei Yi and Hazmy. Wei Yi, played by Cheryl Tan, is a Chinese girl from a traditional Chinese family and Hazmy, played by Hafidz Abdul Rahman, is a Malay boy from a traditional Malay family. They fall in love and end up heartbroken when things don’t end well. I mean, that’s really scratching the surface.

Digging deeper, Sim Yan Ying’s play talks about the issues arising from interacial marriages, from misconceptions of the other race, of racism, ignorance and growing up in Singapore. These issues were sensitively dealt with but also bravely, I would say. Ignorance of the other’s religious practices and culture became starkly funny and awkward for the audience, as they recognise the potential disasters that could happen here if the characters on stage were not teenagers/acting. Wei Yi saying things like “You know, I actually love Malays, and their culture, and their architectures” to a total stranger definitely made the audience facepalm themselves so many times and I thought it was precisely Yan Ying’s craft in making this lighthearted yet serious that made this piece so wonderful for conversation and discussion.

Rooted in an easy to follow story, in contrast to perhaps bigger theatre companies who would choose to tackle this issue with a larger outlook, Yan Ying’s version was good for their targeted audience, who are students, such that they could just dwell on one issue and think of it.  Whether it succeeded in making students talk about it is, however, questionable, considering that the show had an Advisory 16 rating at the end that affected the turn up rate for schools.

Anyhows, I had fun with this team of talented actors, actresses, director and production team. They were really nice and sweet. It would be quite interesting to see it being restaged in the future (with an alternate ending maybe?).

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Singapore Street Festival 2017

Today I’m free to update so I’ll do it all at once! And I would like to make an effort to keep it constantly updated and not wait for… three months later to comment on the past events.

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Singapore Street Festival 2017 happened mid June to mid July this year and I was quite involved in the front-of-house and backend work. I set out to work on this festival originally to attain two things: learn about “street art” and also learn about how do you conceptualise a festival.

I did achieve what I set out to learn, and in fact, did more than I signed up for. Singapore Street Festival 2017 included competitions for Mural painting, Kendama, Bellydancing, Street soccer, Yoyo, Breakdancing and Basking amongst a few. Through this festival, I had new insights to these sports, especially the Kendama players who displayed friendship and camaradie amongst other things.

Being behind the scenes also gave me some understanding to the pre-planning of the events. We had to book hotels for the judges, check out the venues before bump-in, print awards, do briefings and meetings what not. I felt like it made me more aware of the manager I would like to be for my own events and how having a good team of people to delegate jobs to is important. I also learnt that showing that your festival had traction is really important for reports.

The Lesson | Dramabox 

I helped out for The Lesson on 6 and 7 July! Yup so as I said previously, I wanted to make a conscious effort in learning more about Dramabox and their working values. So I volunteered to help out for this moving forum theatre performance cum discussion.

The Lesson is part of Dramabox’s initiative called “Goli”, a reference to the marbles children used to play during the kampong times. Goli is a inflatable moving theatre, this time moving across areas from Bugis, Hougang and Toa Payoh. These are heartland places, where a mixture of “artsy” and “not so artsy” residents live, young and old. As such, the show was targeted at these residents, to engage them in topics that we wish to discuss and think about using the arts as a platform.

This version of Goli, we gave the imagined situation that an MRT station (a subway, metro station, train station) was to be built at this particular venue we are situated at. Participants are all watching 11 “residents” of the area debate and discuss which landmark/space to evict such that the MRT can be built in its place. Amongst these locations were: The Marsh, Halfway House, Rental Flats, Flea Market, Wet Market, Cinema and Columbarium. These “residents” are actually participants (open to anyone via registration online) who attended briefings before the show by organizers such that they understand better what they wish to represent and fight for. Every night, different participants and representatives attend the forum. At the end of the night, a majority consensus must be achieved by the residents or the public to evict one location, if not the decision goes back to the government.

What caught my attention was that Dramabox served tea to everyone, participating or not, for free. This was in line with the Chinese mentality of inviting and welcoming guests to your house, which I thought set the cordial tone and was interesting. This tea was created especially for Goli events so you can’t purchase it elsewhere and prepackaged tea were given out to donors to thank them, making it a memorable experience.

Other than that of course, was the show itself. I do believe that this is amongst the few non-Government organized shows held in an open area where people can walk in on the spot if there is still seats and onlookers are free to come and observe. Everybody were entitled to their own opinions, make a statement by representing what they wanted to protect and discuss openly why another should be demolished. My observation is that in Singapore, a lot of times we end up having one sided conversations online being keyboard warriors, afraid of head on confrontations or perhaps being vulnerable. This space was given then, for all of us to come together and speak up for something we stand for and confront the other party if you have disagreements. In the end, all participants do take away the knowledge and understanding that we all do have some form of authority and voice. But when we as citizens of Singapore are unable to settle upon an opinion, the government will then have to step in and make decisions for us. This is what the generation before mine fears, and what my generation is used to (this is my observation from the two shows I attended).

This topic also reveals the notions of sentimentality, progress and sacrifice in Singapore. Being a small country with very little space, the government is constantly demolishing and rebuilding. The concern of what we can destroy or what we must keep will always be a pressing and real issue. All of us will agree that it does not fall upon one man to make the decision, and yet we can’t come to consensus as a large group either. How can we go about progressing as a nation, as community, a neighbourhood or being an active citizen? How far does conversations and discussions help if there are no solutions or clear agreements?

Goli is free for all to participate and there were shows in Chinese and English. I do believe that it is really an arts-for-all initiative that is friendly and thought provoking and recommend you guys to attend the next Goli if you are available!

Being Haresh Sharma |The Necessary Stage and Cake Theatrical Productions collaboration

It is the last day of July and so let’s celebrate with a post on a play I watched on 29 June! Haha I’m incredibly hopeless at this. (Correction, I am continuing this post on 2 August because I didn’t manage to finish the last time around.)

With that said, there isn’t much to remember about the play for me. This play is a series of short snippets from selected plays written by Haresh Sharma, within which, there was GodEatGod, Offcenter, Those Who Can’t Teach, Rosnah amongst others. I didn’t really find it memorable although my friends and other reviews did say they felt the show was good. 

For me, I just felt like it did what it set out to do – to celebrate the works of Haresh Sharma as well as the messages that it has covered and shared over the years. In a short period of 2hours, stories covered topics of mental disorders, social issues of religion and race, segregations of people within communities and also sexuality. There were a lot of things to think about for the most part and it does confirm how skilled and talented Sharma is in achieving such accomplishments. But I would say the way this was put together – the fragmentedness, the lightings, staging – doesn’t appeal to me very much. I could not really appreciate the artistic thought put into it. The acting by Siti Khalijah and  Ghafir Akbar was commendable though, Siti was very fluid in costume change and persona change; it was fun to watch. Ghafir was especially good in Offcenter. 

Okay that is all from me about this play.

Girl in the White Sand box《莎莎》(Re-run) | Drama Box

I literally procrastinated writing this for an entire month. I am a sloth. (I literally tried writing this 5 separate times)

I first watched 莎莎 (sha sha) in 2012 when my school brought us to see the play. That also meant that it was amongst my first few plays I’ve ever watched in my entire life and my first chinese theatre show ever (or second). This time around, I went back to Dramabox to volunteer for this particular show on 21 May. This meant that 莎莎 has dramatically (chuckles at my own pun) affected my puny little secondary school life.

The story and direction for 莎莎 is amazing, and I was so excited and thrilled to see much of the original direction had stayed together with the director. The story surrounds a young school girl named Shasha (which is a pun on “sand”). She wakes up in a big white room containing nothing but sand and does not remember how she got here. A man with an eery mask comes into the room and introduces himself to her as the caretaker of this kingdom, where they keep everybody who had committed suicide in separate rooms. She tries to escape him, knowing that after registration with the caretaker, she would be stuck in this place forever. She picked up the keys he accidentally dropped and sought shelter from other rooms she unlocked. Every room she entered, however, presented different situations and different people who committed suicide. Amongst them were the self harm girl, the girl who hung herself and the man who swallowed sleeping pills. After talking to them about their motivations and after thoughts, Shasha unwillingly reveals that she thought of ending her life because it felt like nobody around her cared about her. She ran to the construction area near her house and dug and dug at the sand, unknowingly falling into it, burying herself. The three friends she just made told her to escape this place and helped her to stall for time, telling her that in this kingdom, everybody will have to relive their death every seven minutes when the alarm sounds, driving home the idea to the audience that suicide doesn’t just end all worries and problems once and for all. Shasha manages to leave this place and go back to the human world eventually, but no without the help of the audience who played an active part in counselling and guiding her on how to deal with the problems she faced before.

Ultimately, this play is aimed at teenage students who may face issues yet not know how to deal with them. It is to remind them that suicide is not the solution and they should reach out to their friends if they feel something is wrong. Watching it again brought back all the memories and emotions. As much as children/students don’t say it out, at the back of their minds, they are bound to feel like a disappointment or they will be let down by others. “Not wanting to exist” is going to be a persistent thought. What 莎莎 did was to remind people to be more kind, more attentive and to believe in better days.

Other than the story line (when I first watched it, the 7 minutes death routine really got to me, I was just fourteen okay), I really liked the use of lights, sounds and masks. It was minimalistic, using lights to segregate and create space on stage and masks to allow characters to don on different personas. However, one change I disliked was how when I first watched it years ago, only the main character 莎莎 got to leave the kingdom. This time around, 莎莎 and the three other characters got to leave. This version, as I explained to the production team, made suicide seem reversible as if the consequences are not forever. When 莎莎 left alone, it felt like a dream that she encountered and maybe all of these were not real. Perhaps she fell asleep at the construction site and imagined the afterlife. I read this new version as “the truth”, where these people do exist and they are redeemed. My friend and I both saw this as overly ideal.

Really excited I dragged myself out of my comfort zone and made an effort to do something with Dramabox. Will be helping out with The Lesson in July. I really like the message and values that Dramabox stand for (community spirit, joy of giving, speaking… chinese…. Haha) and I would definitely hang around to see what’s in store!

(Yay! I did it!)

Kway Chap | Sun Koh & Old Friends | Royston Tan

…… I finished my post yesterday but today it disappeared….. Sigh.

Kway Chap by Sun Koh runs only 15 minutes long. It documents the stories of Koh’s past family business running a famous Kway Chap stall. This story was born out of nostalgia and regret, as this stall and her old house no longer exists. Capturing the reactions and recollections of her parents on film, this was perhaps her attempt in concretising the family’s heritage and history largely grounded by the Kway Chap stall.

Watching it made me think about my own family and how I should document my memories before I no longer have a chance to. Perhaps even learn a few dishes from my grandmother or just document where I live in general.

Old Friends felt more like those Channel 8 food review series where people judged how good the food was, what they recommend and stuff. I couldn’t really appreciate it for the artistic qualities.

Watched these at Singapore Heritage Festival @ ACM this year! Only managed to be part of the Caldecott Broadcasting event and also Heritage events at ACM. I felt that there wasn’t really the education aspect, in the sense that people did not have the opportunity to learn about the heritage of the place and what is so good about the place itself. The only time I learnt about Caldecott was on the shuttle bus where the tourguide attached to the bus mentioned it to us. Otherwise, the events were really family friendly and relaxed. Happy that they screened 7 Letters and I got to rewatch I Not Stupid by Jack Neo!

Tango | Pangdemonium

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Tango was great! I watched it on 23 May with Yifeng and we both enjoyed it. I enjoyed it largely because of the generally competent cast with no weak link and also because of the vision of the scriptwriter, Joel Tan.

As usual, the set was arresting. I was delighted to be greeted with a giant set that engaged audience on the circle seats as well. The audience in the circle seats could see characters from our own eye level when the action rotates shifts from being on stage to being on the set. The space, I felt, was well utilised and divided for the three different settings despite sharing the same stage at the same time. I appreciated the use of multimedia to faciliate transitions and visualising the setting without the actual use of physical props.

Chemistry wise, I felt the couple played by Koh Boon Pin (Kenneth) and Emil Marwa (Liam) was not too bad. In particular, I really enjoyed Koh’s acting – as a partner, a father, a son and a friend. He came across convincingly as a gay man but also a strong man. Dylan Jenkins was adorable as the son, whom I thought displayed a commendable performance being at 13 years old. The other two characters I really enjoyed watching were Benjamin Chow’s take on Benmin and Razaini Mazai as Zul. In particular, I loved the final scene where Benmin tells Zul about the old man in the toilet and he starts sobbing while being on the phone with Zul.

Lim Kay Siu (Grandfather), Karen Tan (Elaine) and Lok Meng Chue(Poh Lin) were good but I felt I didn’t see anything new in their choice of characters. So it was also a little bit… boring to watch. Nothing surprised me.

I got lazy in finishing this review even though I’m supposed to be writing this for my own good. But here is another review that mirrors my thoughts! https://bakchormeeboy.com/2017/05/21/review-tango-by-pangdemonium/

7 Letters

Last post for the week!!! (God bless)

I caught this film finally at Singapore Heritage Festival. In fact, I went to Caldecott and skipped work solely for this. I would not say it was worth it (or not) but I spent time with my sister who was great company so I’m not complaining.

7 Letters was a film done for the Singapore Film Commission in 2015. It is a Singaporean drama film directed by seven different directors, comprising of seven short stories celebrating Singapore’s 50th anniversary. The seven directors are Eric Khoo, Jack Neo, Royston Tan, K. Rajogopal, Tan Pin Pin, Kelvin Tong and Boo Junfeng.

My favourite were Bunga Sayang by Royston Tan and Grandma Positioning System (GPS) by Kelvin Tong. Both featured a child about 7-10years old and a grandmother. The former was about a chinese boy whose parents are hardly at home and forgets to pay the utilities bills. As such, the water supply gets cut off whenever he is bathing. He then seeks help from this Malay grandmother who is his neighbour. Speaking different languages but feeling the same loneliness and earning for connection, this film is heartwarming and quite comical, with insertion of song and dance.

The latter was set during the Qingming festival, where a chinese family of two kids, mother and father and a grandmother visits their late grandfather/father/husband in Johor Bahru. Despite everybody rushing home to settle their day to day worries, grandmother took her time to talk to her late husband, describing to him the way home. Listing how things in Singapore has changed, and how his road home changed, the audience is reminded on how much Singapore’s geography has evolved. The second time around when they visit, grandmother has passed away and is buried with grandfather. The family cleans the burial site quickly and leaves. A distance away in the car, the boy rushes out and runs back to the burial ground. He starts to recite to his grandmother and grandfather the way home, telling them that they moved house. The family, chasing after him, sees this and joins in poignantly. In the last scene, we see the grandparents slowly making their way towards the railway and possibly to their grandchildren.

This made me think about the traditions that my own grandparents hold on to, and the fears that they could possibly have. How some traditions are kept simply because it comforted some people, not necessarily making sense or having scientific reasons.

Every Brilliant Thing | Bhumi Collective

I watched this on 21 April.

Every Brilliant Thing was written and first performed by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe. The story was told from the eyes of a child’s point of view whose mother was depressed and committed suicide thereafter. It follows the main character from a young age where he first struggled to understand his mother’s world to his adulthood with dysfunctional relationships because of his depression. This narrative shares with the audience, whom double up as a support group for the child/performer, the aftereffects of one’s suicide in a simple and clear cut manner, where the character advises anyone who thinks of doing it to “Don’t do it”.

What is interesting about this script is that it involved audience interaction. This was a risk that the character had to take because whoever he chose to help read out notes or play along as a character of the story had to be willing to play along. Audience got to play roles such as his dad, teacher, counsellor and girlfriend. Since the audience were chosen on the spot and are improvising, the character himself had to be quick on his toes, remain humorous and mediate the situation if it goes wrong. In this area, Andrew Marko did a great job holding the piece together while making everybody else feel like part of the story at all times.

This play is considerably different in its approach to theatre in Singapore, where the audience make up quite a large part of the story instead of the actors playing it out. With this spontaniety and difference in quality in mind, perhaps it is difficult to charge the audience an expensive entry ticket if it cannot be substantiated with reasons why. This also reminded me of Red Rabbit, White Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour, where the audience played out parts of the script. In terms of concept and depth, it is the latter that triumphs. Nevertheless, Every Brilliant Thing is a light and comfortable text to watch and sit through. More than a theatrical piece, it is almost a community play for the everyday folks.

Tropicana The Musical

“Welcome to the Tropicana-a-a!”

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I caught this on 18 April with my sister who was watching her first musical ever. I did not go find out what the show was about and thus was shocked at naked women dancing as a show starter. My sister seemed fine about it though haha.

I loved the costumes of the dancers, especially the pineapple one which I thought was really exotic and fun. In terms of the stories, the songs and singing, it was not really my cup of tea. It felt quite fragmented and sudden at times, where focus was shifted from people to people really quickly without much reason. If one thing was good from the whole play, it was probably the band. They were, the most consistent.

Although unrelated, the production merchandise looked really good and had good quality. I thought it was interesting to see people spend $70 on a laptop case and $50 on totebags.

I watched the play partially because Haresh Sharma wrote it, but did not feel the same compactness in the stories that his other pieces had. As such, I felt that the characters did not have much to explore or show other than the singing and dancing, which to me, may not be the ideal selling point for all musicals.