The Red Pill Production play delves into the world of the LGBT, asking the question – what if we accept them into mainstream society?
A play about LGBT? Same gender kissing live? (Sorry Les Misérables) In Singapore? What audacity! Trust W!LD RICE to pioneer such an audacious production (Laughs). Produced by RED Pill Production, Let’s Get Back Together (LGBT) is part of the 8-play lineup in this year’s Singapore Theatre Festival organised by W!LD RICE.
But before that, I’m damn excited to be reviewing a play that The Straits Times and all the other state news medias aren’t covering on la (Laughs).
The 2016 performance piece looks into the topic of the said title and is a performance made from the culmination of interviews with 50 individuals from the LGBT community. LGBT is written by playwrights Mark Ng and Kenneth Chia and stars Ezzat Alkaff, Ann Lek, Ruzaini Mazani, Eleanor Tan, Jo Tan and Zachary Ibrahim – all of whom are heterosexuals (not ironic, will explain later).
The play opens with a video excerpt of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 4 June 2015 speech addressing the public that Singapore is a conservative country who is not ready to embrace the LGBT community (Amazing how they even got this approved by MDA). It was followed by interviews from members of public all of whom expressed their disapproval of the LGBT community. Following that, the six characters walks into the simple set holding labels that indicate their sexual preferences. One has to remember that much of the words uttered in the play are those from actual Singaporean LGBT.
In the first chapter of sorts, the characters went through an identity crisis in their adolescences as they struggle to live up to their roles as determined by their families and the society-at-large. The director cleverly used an actor and actress to mirror each other’s movements and words even as the both of them identified with the opposite gender. In another scene, the conflicted character asks her mother if she married her father for love or for children to which the latter replied “For children” put of spite.
“Why are you asking me if I’m gay? I’m gay simply because I’m gay la. Why are you straight?”
– Quote from LGBT play
There was no room for a breather as the play continued to deliver punchlines after punchlines highlighting the prejudices, discrimination and struggles of being a member of the LGBT community in Singapore.
“WHY CAN WE LET THEM HAVE OUR KIDS?” In this scene, Jo Tan’s character (a speaker in the We Are Against Pink Dot Group) delivered a fiery (actual) speech on the diabolical consequences of allowing LGBT to push their homosexual agenda – thus begging the question, is the desire to love [in spite of the other party being the same gender] such a diabolical crime that warrants such extremism?
The second half of the play could be said to be devoted to the topic of religion. In one scene, Ann Lek’s character (a Lesbian churchgoer) was confronted by her pastor for being a ‘stumbling rock‘. The term is often used to describe Christians whose behaviours caused other Christians to ‘fall out of the faith’. Mazani’s character explains that it is not the Christian God, but Christians who caused him grief as the former continued to struggle with the identity crisis and persecution [by members of the faith] before finding healing after leaving church.
Ann Lek’s character confronted by her pastor whom she reverred | PHOTO: W!LD RICE
Reaching a climax, the characters of the play revealed that none of them chose to be that way. Mazani’s character laments to God for making him this way, asking “Aren’t we all not God’s children?” Ibrahim’s character (a divorcee who identifies as a transgender) explained that he loved his wife and children but felt that living the former life of pretense was eating him from the inside out.
As the play came to a close, actual photographs of members of the LGBT community (including W!LD RICE artistic director Ivan Heng and his partner) and their loved ones who came to accept the former for who they are appeared on the screen, telling us that being a LGBT is not divisive in nature, but can even be accepted by ‘conservative’ Singaporeans as evidenced in the photographic testimonies. Hence the title ‘Let’s Get Back Together‘. The play ends with the characters holding up labels not of their sexuality, but of their characters as they sang the lyrics “Love is patient, love is kind” – a frequently quoted verse about love from 1 Corinthians 13 in the bible.
In the post-play dialogue, transgender activist and founder of Singapore’s first home for transgenders June Chua revealed that LGBTs are not allowed to act out their character on television and in theatre, which is really sad since it only leads to the continued rift and lack of understanding by the general public on the LGBT community. I do applaud the six characters for bringing out their characters to life despite not identifying with the characters’ sexual preferences.
Having no prior exposure to the LGBT topic, understanding the underlying themes as well as its overt messages (which were screaming at me) was an enlightening experience for me. LGBT was a dynamic and touching play which seek to tell us that in the essence of it all, the LGBT community do not want to propagate the ‘LGBT right’ but the human right – to love even if the interpretation of ‘love’ is different from the mainstream belief system.
As a Christian, the addressing of the LGBT topic was a difficult one for me, but I [kind of] agree with Alkaff’s character who challenged that God does not heal same sex problems, but the reasons that led to these problems. But what if some people were just born with an extra/lacking chromosomes?
While I agree with the points brought up by the play on so many levels, could the acceptance and embracing of the LGBT idea (notice I did not use the word ‘agenda’) result in the proliferation and even further propagation of LGBT lifestyle as a nominal way of life which could have societal and cultural consequences? I am not saying that the desire to love is wrong, but there are always repercussions, isn’t it?
To that end, I do not have any answer. But I would have hoped that LGBT play explored the topic from both sides of the camp, thus giving a more holistic perspective to the matter rather than a rather one-sided view, which could perhaps lead to greater acceptance and understanding of the LGBT topic by the general public.
One of the points that I found hilarious was Ibrahim’s character bringing up the belief that there are not enough straight couples to adopt orphans. That school of thought is a house of cards which lacked depth since there are also widespread belief that children raised in a LGBT family could have identity issues and other problems in their later years.
In summary, I thought that Let’s Get Back Together is a very important theatre piece in the understanding of the LGBT and their endeavours. More can and should be done for the LGBT who are often marginalised, misunderstood and condemned. The Christian community should also exemplify their belief of what it means to ‘love people unconditionally’, for the act of judgment should be left to God and not by men.
Sadly, LGBT runs till 11 July 2016. But members of the public who wishes to watch and explore other controversial themes can purchase tickets to the remaining two plays in the Singapore Theatre Festival lineup below. RW
MY MOTHER BUYS CONDOMS by W!LD RICE
Venue: Creative Cube
Show Dates: 14 – 24 July 2016
Ticket Price: $40 (click here to purchase tickets)
Sex and star-crossed love are domains reserved for the young… aren’t they? That’s what Maggie, a retired school teacher, has always believed. But everything Maggie had come to assume and accept about her life changes when she agrees to teach Raju, an air-con repairman, how to read. As their relationship blossoms into an unconventional romance, those close to Maggie begin to question her behaviour, morals and choices. Nora, her best friend, claims that she no longer recognises her. Wilfred, her son, is outraged. Only Gwen, Maggie’s daughter, seems to understand, but she has secrets of her own.
A romantic comedy that puts a cheeky spin on active ageing, Helmi Yusof’s first play examines society’s attitudes towards sex and senior citizens. Inspiring and empowering, My Mother Buys Condoms challenges audiences to re-evaluate the freedom to love for those who may no longer be young in body, but remain young at heart. MY MOTHER BUYS CONDOMS was first developed for the TheatreWorks Writers Lab’s ‘Writing From The Heart’ programme in 2014.
GRC (GENG REBUT CABINET) by Teater Ekamatra
Venue: Flexible Performance Space
Show Dates: 14 – 24 July 2016
Ticket Price: $40 (click here to purchase tickets)
With elections around the corner, a political party is planning to field candidates in a five-member Group Representation Constituency. On the shortlist are a Minister, a Brigadier-General, a high-flying lawyer and a grassroots organiser. But the team is not complete without a minority candidate. This candidate has to be likeable. He or she has to be a respected member of the community. Most importantly, he or she has to be… Chinese.
GRC examines what it means to be part of a minority in a topsy-turvy farcical world where the disempowered now rule, and the invisible have their faces plastered everywhere – but only during campaign season. Who defines whether someone is a member of a minority? Who sets the standards for a ‘model minority’ and a ‘problem minority’? And is the country ready for a minority Prime Minister?