Review Singapore Theatre

Rant and Rave: A History Lesson

Singaporean theatre has evolved through the decades, much of it I was never involved in, not being born early enough. Not that it makes any difference to my enjoyment of The Finger Players’ “Rant and Rave”.

Running for 90 mins, and broken into 3 broad segments, the show gives a succinct recap of the formative 80s, the tumultuous 90s and the transformational 20th century of Singaporean theatre. Played by 2 amazing actresses, Arts NMP Janice Koh and veteran Karen Tan, both seamlessly weaving in and out of characters, with some characters played with such accuracy it brought a smile to my face the moment the character first appeared. I have to point out that Karen’s portrayal of Alvin Tan (Co-founder, The Necessary Stage) was so spot on that many members of the audience were heard giggling.

The one segment that I felt really strongly about was Arts and the Media. There are many times when I find that much of the arts community have this innate sense of martyrdom, and that they are quick to jump against what they perceive as injustice dealt to them, especially by the media. A recent memory was that of Straits Times Life! writer John Lui’s article where he commented about Ilo Ilo not going to be a box office hit in Singapore, despite all the winnings at various international award shows. So many theatre folks on my Facebook timeline went up in arms, calling Lui a fraud, a disgrace and whatever they can think of. The only thought I had at the point in time was, it’s just his opinion. Right or wrong, that’s up to the reader to determine. The industry complains so much about the government thinking that Singaporeans are stupid and not able to think for themselves, yet this incident shows that they don’t even believe Singaporeans are able to think for themselves and judge if an article has its merits or not.

Watching “Rant and Rave”, I feel really sorry for the art critics who are bashed, judged and scorned for their opinion piece. How can the practitioners expect their audience to have an open mind, if they themselves are not willing to give their audience some credit for having a mind of their own. I also do not believe in a comment that was made by a practitioner that basically judged theatre reviewers for their lack of understanding of the process of putting up a production. Why should they need to have that background or experience? Art is about what it means to the viewer, less so about what the director or scriptwriter wants to force down the audience’s throats. The reviewer’s job is to take his experience and put it into context for the person reading his article. A review is, in its very nature, subjective. The very nature of theatre is also the life it takes on its own, sometimes contrary to what the creator’s message really was. Different aspects of the same show will appeal and stand out to different people, and that has always been what makes theatre truly magical. Maybe, instead of snarling at the reviewers, we can take a step back and see how our works have been interpreted, and seek to understand the rationale behind the interpretation. It could even bring a whole new perspective to the show.

In any case, we have only been growing the arts scene for 30 years, I believe it is still too early to demand for maturity in all aspects. And that includes the arts practitioners, the critics, as well as the audience. All the major arts and cultural hubs around the world have had the vast history and more than half a century’s worth of evolution as their foundation and backbone. I also believe that all the challenges that the arts community currently face, will simply become fodder to continuously feed the public as we grow beyond fulfilling our basic needs of food and shelter, and seeking nourishment of the mind and soul.

“Rant and Rave” is on for one last show tomorrow afternoon as part of Esplanade The Studios Season 2014, and I recommend everyone to go catch it while you can.

Review Theatre


“Beauty World Cha Cha Cha!” “High Class, Low Class, NO CLASS!”

Who can forget these classic lines? Beauty World the musical has been with us 5 years after I was born. So 20 years after its creation, I was given complimentary tickets to watch.

Firstly, I don’t like the Esplanade Theatre. The stall seats are just as good as being on perfectly flat ground. It’s so steep that I was unable to see any action that was within 0.5m from the stage floor.. *grumbles*

I went in without any expectations of a good time actually.It was quite obvious to me before I stepped into the venue that it will not be good. It might pass, but it will not be one that stays with us for a long time. The cast list is pretty much good enough to tell all.

That said, I was fairly impressed by the set design. I thought it was intelligent and thought was actually put into the works and how the interchanging of the set flows with the rest of the play. There was a certain sense of period in the Beauty World cabaret style set but it could have been slightly better. The whole feel was more of a Moulin Rouge idea than 80s chinese cabaret. Slightly off but still good.

Lights was in general another good point in the play. Lulu’s follow-spotter was not very on-the-ball at times. There were a couple of spots that cleanly cuts a dark arc across the forehead. And that happened in scenes where she was supposed to be showing lots of emotion in her expression… A big waste that was actually. But I’m not really a lights person so I’m not really able to comment much on it..

Sound though, is a different thing. OH MY GAWD! I hated it, the sound cues, not the songs.. The band was placed at the back and on top of ALL the action. So much so that the conductor is totally unable to see the action on stage real life. He either had to use audio cues, or use his monitor which is super tiny. I know. I’ve seen it. I can’t see shit on that small little thing. So.. 90% of the sound cues were off. Especially the visual ones. Timing was horrible. Sometimes the music climax came after the actor had already paused in his act.. Like 3 seconds. Totally off. Bad.

Personally, and I think this applies to most industry people who watched the show, that the costumes were bad. It was totally off. I mean, this is a 80s Singapore Chinese cabaret, not Moulin Rouge. Yet 80% of the cabaret girls’ costumes were so Moulin Rouge, complete with sequins, glitter, shine, feathers, tassles all the works. *beep* Wrong era here. And my god the suits look like a really fashionable & modern cut! The only correct period costume was probably recycled from the old run. Which is Ah Hock, Ivy, Frankie & Rosemary’s. *shakes head*

My heart goes out to Daren Tan, really. He’s not a stage actor. He doesn’t even know how to act. Yet because of his fame as the winner of Project Superstar, he has to be thrown into this unfamiliar and really very unkind community. He simply can’t act. Not now. Not without training and experience. His singing is wrong. The wrong type of vocals. Pop singing and musical singing is really way off. Not everyone’s Pamela Oei or Gani. He was easily the worst of the lot, seriously. Not entirely his own fault but still… Reality sucks.

Elena, playing Ivy, really threw me off. She was much better than I had expected. Then again, she has the right musical theatre training as a foundation. She has the vocals and the potential. What she really lacks is the experience, which shows in her acting. There is a certain lack of sense of how you capture and enhance movements in accordance with the background music. For example, when she was sneaking around in Mummy’s room in her all-black catwoman suit, it would have been more interesting to see if she had followed the beat of the music. I’d like to use popping as a way to connect such movement acting. There’s always a certain place where you stop, usually at the hard beat itself. And the right amount of jerky actions combined with smooth moves accentuates what you are doing and makes your movements clearer. Plus you don’t have to do as many consecutive actions to get the same effect. And it looks better on stage. She really needs to work on her physical aspect.

Frankie, played by Dwayne Tan, was a lovely success. Totally without the image of Hossan Leong from the 1998 run and yet still endearing in his own way. “My a-ha-ha Ivy….” Didn’t know how it was apparently so hilarious that everyone had to laugh like mad dogs every time he sang that song. *grouchy*

The rest… Denise could have done better but the chemistry between her & the rest wasn’t there.. The showdown between Lulu & Rosemary was such a let down! Where is the vocal power????? Rosemary was tooooooo much Jacintha, she might as well have done it by herself. Irene Ang was hilarious as Ah Choo, spot on punch lines.. Swee Lin was charismatic as Mummy as well.. Ensemble was well, forgettable.

I wouldn’t pay to watch the show, even if it was S$10. But that’s just me. Someone else might have a different opinion.

Have you watched the play?


Mama v.s. Jack

I’m going into overdrive. I watched Jack & the Beansprout on the exact same day I bump-out for Mama looking for her Cat.

Mama’s the testament to what I always believe in. A small tight production team is always fun. Everybody knows everybody and everyone gels. Even if its just for that period of time. The tightness is still there. We can talk crap and make inside jokes where every single person will understand. Because it’s such a small team, the jokes get passed around fast. Not forgetting the show’s in Theatre Studio. Where the common area is right in front of the lift and there’s enough space for everyone to congregate there and chit-chat and hang out.

On the other hand.. The excitement, the thrill and the challenge of working on a large production like Jack & the Beansprout is always tempting. Not forgetting the money will always be better. The team will be bigger and usually more ‘star-studded’. It’s good for the resume. If you are a start-out. Like me. But in such a large-scale production, the relationships are strained. Cliques are formed and there’s always the politicking that I hate. Gossips, rumours, backstabbing etc etc..

But I miss the Drama Centre techies. Watched Jack last night and went out with Lynn, Hidayah, Pauline & the rest of the wardrobe gang.. Ismail was there too and we were thinking like the last show that I did at DC was last year Sleeping Beauty!!! That was about 1 year ago boy. Time really flies.

I’m waiting. 2 more years and my tuition fee loans will be cleared. Start saving now and I will be back in the scene very very soon. But now I need to learn. I’m like a baby who’s learning how to walk. But with very few practice sessions.

Resolution for the new year. ALL my annual leave will be used for productions. If I can make it. If I’m not on business trip. I have 16 days to make full use of in the year 2007.

Toi toi toi!!!!!