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.

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.

Normal | Checkpoint Theatre

I caught Normal on 14 April in the Drama Centre Black Box with my JC theatre friends and thought that the main actresses Claire Chung (Ashley) and Audrey Tiong (Daphne) were amazing.

The story is about two Normal Academic (NA) students in their final year of school. They were about to sit for their O Levels, but were not confident of doing well. Individually, the characters faced setbacks, isolation and loneliness. Together, they portrayed a group of students whom I believe were relatable for many of the NA students in the audience and perhaps anybody else who have friends or relatives in the education system.

Tiong’s character struck me the most, partially because I saw a resemblance of my younger sister in her. Innocent and kind, she is slow and uncertain of herself. Sometimes, others are also not sure how or what she is thinking of when she’s quiet. Often, the effort put in does not translate directly into grades and success. Tiong managed to execute her performance with a sincere rendering of a girl who fumbles with her words, who innocently say things that are hilarious without meaning to and to show the hurt that perhaps only she understands to the audience.

As for Chung, I liked to watch her because it felt like the character was made for her physique. She was pretty, yet believably boisterous and rowdy.

Other characters whom I liked to watch was Amanda Tee, who played the teacher Lynette in the play. She played the typical office lady of Singapore who will gossip and backstab whoever she needs to. I thought she did so very well!

Undeniably, the theatre veterans Julie Wee, Fanny Kee and Chio Suping were good so I do not have anything much to add on to that.

I have to say the set and blocking did not impress me, and the singing did not do a lot for me. I prefered to watch the parts where the two girls got to converse with each other and occasionally with Shi-an, who played Marianne, the school prefect.

All in all, my biggest takeaway from this production is really to see the power of theatre. This production was sold out for all shows despite having a long run. I was scanning through carousell to see if anybody wanted tickets since my friend was selling hers. It was then I saw the whole list of people asking for tickets because they wanted to bring their NA friend/they are from NA themselves. I realised on a usual basis, these people would not really catch a theatre play. Normal is special because it is about them. Almost carthartic, it gives hope for and sheds light on what these students think and face on their path to adulthood.

It was also refreshing to know that big shots of the education system and the government graced the show too, possibly due to its sensitivity and the upcoming restructuring of the system. Perhaps, theatre plays a significant role in our society?

Shakespeare | NAFA

I watched this solely because my friends were performing in it haha. Directed by Laura Hayes, NAFA Diploma in Theatre English Drama Year 2 performed 9 scenes of selected plays by Shakespeare. It was also quite interesting to compare this to LASALLE’s Midsummer. This was on 13 April.

The students performed As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, Richard II.

Personally, I enjoyed Midsummer a lot. Performed in their blackbox, it had a more intimate vibe as compared to LASALLE’s version in the SIA theatre. Also, it was much more physical, where there was running, jumping and kicking. The other plays were more dry. Another scene worth mentioning was Richard II where Rino Junior John executed a solid performance (for a student) of the king himself in jail.

Other students whom I personally enjoyed watching was Megan Soh playing Isabella in Measure for Measure, Emilbiany Intong in Midsummer and Kevin Woo in As you like it.