Monkey Goes West: Embark On The Happiest & Funniest Journey To (Jurong) West

Back to entertain audiences this festive season is arguably W!LD RICE’s most popular pantomime based on the famous Chinese literary classic.

“Monkey goes West, he must go to serve his sentence…” I left the theatre humming the infectious theme song of Monkey Goes West. Damn earworm! The award-winning play by W!LD RICE returns for a limited run at the Drama Centre Theatre from 18 November to 17 December 2016. Monkey Goes West is directed by Broadway Beng Sebastian Tan, written by Alfian Sa’at, with music composed by Elaine Chan.

First performed to a sold-out audience back in 2014, the pantomime dominated the Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards and took home Production of the Year award amongst a few other awards. The pantomime follows the journey of present-time orphan Ah Tang (reprised by Joshua Lim) who runs away from home and finds himself transported to the mysterious land where dangers abounds.

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PHOTO: W!LD RICE

As is the tradition for all WILD R!CE’s pantomime, the show opens with over-the-top song and dance, and spectacular set of heaven featuring its four golden dragon pillars. Fast forward to the present, we learn that Ah Tang is frustrated with his Uncle Mu (Darius Tan) and English-butchering Auntie (reprised by Chua Enlai) for their obsession over their talented medal-winning daughter (Kimberly Tan) and for seemingly forgetting his mother’s dead anniversary.

Deciding to reminisce the good times with his mother, Ah Tang visits Haw Par Villa and falls asleep there. Who would have a ‘good time’ in ‘hell’? Anyway, Ah Tang finds himself trapped after overstaying past the park’s visiting hours, further soliciting for help from the audience.

Forced to embrace his mistaken identity as Tang Seng the monk, Ah Tang travels with his companions, Wukong (reprised by Sugie Chua), Pigsy (reprised by Siti Khalijah Zainal) and Sandy (reprised by Frances Lee), the quartet goes on a hilarious adventure to Jurong West where they learn the importance of teamwork and family.

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PHOTO: W!LD RICE

What makes Monkey Goes West so fun to watch (and rewatch) is in its ability to entertain and delight audiences no matter how young or old you are. W!LD RICE resident playwright Alfian Sa’at is a master in his field; weaving in cheeky banters and ‘yo mama jokes’ for the kids, and throwing in – and updating – humourous and politically incorrect jokes which only the adults would be tickled by in the mix. I will not spoil the fun by revealing any of the jokes!

Undoubtedly one of Singapore’s most talented music composers, Elaine Chan incorporates Chinese musical instruments into the pantomime’s popular hit songs such as Monkey Goes West the main theme song, and Master of Disguise. I guarantee that you will leave humming the tunes like I did. The show was obviously created to impress, with its magnificent set and gorgeous costumes once again designed by Wong Chee Wai and Thailand’s Tube Gallery respectively.

It’s also hard to believe that the entire production only stars seven adult actors. Joshua entertains as Ah Tang and solicits crowd response from the children, while Siti puts comedic magic in every role she lands and as both butt-shaking Sandy and Guan Yin Ma in the case of Monkey Goes West. FIRST STAGE! Alumni Kimberly whose character performs a entertaining Flamenco (or Flamingo as termed by Enlai’s character) number on stage is the shining example of the success of W!LD RICE’s grooming programme. The programme has trained more than 250 children, providing them with firsthand experiences of acting on a professional stage alongside established actors.

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PHOTO: W!LD RICE

Enlai is the king of comedy, entertaining the crowd as Iron Fan Princess and Aunty Fanny who butchers the English language exchanging words like ‘sensation’ for ‘menstruation’, ‘ovation’ for ‘ovulation’. Autny Fanny will also ‘zao geng’ a handful of times in the show – disturbing but hilarious! The FIRST STAGE! kids also entertained with their surprising Wushu techniques, trained by Gordon Choy. Everyone were on-point in their roles but in the end, the one who stole the show had to be Sugie as the mischevious legendary Monkey King with his acrobatics and engaging performance.

Laughing almost from start to end of the musical, I found it hard to part ways with the beloved characters at the end. W!LD RICE’s 13th pantomime, Monkey Goes West is the perfect example of pantomimes done right, even if it was centred around a Eastern classic. I love, love, love it. Many thanks to W!LD RICE and partners for the invitation to Monkey Goes West Gala Night. It was so fun and I wouldn’t have spent my Saturday any other way. Bring your kids, your parents and your friends to catch Monkey Goes West quick before tickets sell out!

Afternoon matinees are available on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Monkey Goes West

Drama Centre Theatre

Opens 18 November to 17 December 2016

W!LD RICE brings the Year of the Monkey to a happy climax with its 13th holiday musical extravaganza for the whole family! Winner of ‘Production of the Year’ at the 2015 Straits Times Life Theatre Awards, Monkey Goes West is an affectionate and cheeky retelling of the beloved Chinese fantasy classic. Join us for an epic thrill ride that will take you from Haw Par Villa to Jurong West – by way of a colourful world filled with mythical monsters and naughty fairies.

Ticket Pricing: $45 – $80

Web Link: Monkey Goes West

Disgraced Review: Contemplating Islamophobia in a Post-9/11 World

Powerful, unpretentious and no-holes-barred is SRT’s run of Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Disgraced.

Talking about race, language or religion is never comfortable nor an ideal tabletop conversation topic (especially) in politically-correct Singapore. So when Singapore Repertory Theatre was granted approval by Singapore’s Media Development Authority to run the play without the slightest bit of amendment to the script, we know we are in for a ride.

The play written by Pakistani-American novelist and screenwriter Ayad Akhtar first premiered in Chicago in 2012, bagging the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and many subsequent soldout shows across theatres in the US and Europe since then.

Set in a swanky apartment in Upper East Side New York, successful Pakistani-American lawyer Amir Kapoor (Gaurav Kripalani) and his American artist wife Emily (Jennifer Coombs) invites their friends and couple, Jewish curator Isaac (Daniel Jenkins) and Kapoor’s African-Amerian colleague Jory (LaNisa Frederick) over to dinner. We get this sense that Amir identifies and has assimilated into the American community, hiding his Pakistani-Muslim roots from friends and employers, even going so far as to change his surname from Abdullah to Kapoor.

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PHOTO: SRT

The couple was first visited by Amir’s nephew Hussein Kapoor or Abe (Ghafir Akhtar); for the junior Kapoor explains that the latter helps him to assimilate into the American community like his successful lawyer uncle. Abe sought his lawyer uncle’s help to represent an Imam who was being persecuted for allegedly raising funds for terrorist activities. Amir refuses to even attend the hearing in fear of endorsing a faith he no longer has any love for but relents upon the persuading of Emily.

The dinner session started out tame but quickly takes a turn for the worst. While Emily embraces the Islamic art and its spiritual traditions, Amir explains to the dinner party that Islam is a violent and backward religion that has no place in modern society, throwing many one-two punches – such as citing Islam for promoting violence (against women) and the creation of Taliban – to Jory’s agreement.

Isaac confronts Amir to clarify his politically incorrect views on Islam extremism to which the latter announces that he feels innately happy that they – referring to the Muslim community at large – are finally winning when 9-11 took place, and that anti-Semitism is the way to go. Mayhem followed.

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PHOTO: SRT

Amir’s decision to attend the Imam’s hearing comes back to haunt him as his law firm headed by Jewish partners bypassed the better-qualified Amir to give his coveted partner position to Jory instead. Another sign of Islamophobia. Abe witnesses the breaking down of Amir’s successful life and marriage, and decides to embrace Islamic extremism over assimilation.

Dialogue throughout the play between the five casts is witty albeit laden with stereotyping, bias and a truckload of anger. Like when Amir ridicules the faith of his ancestors by claiming that “Islam is a religion of tough people who suffered in the desert.. with a very angry hate mail to humanity” and “White women take out clothes to make people like them.”

There is nothing politically correct about Disgraced as the different characters representing different backgrounds lay out all their cards – or biasness – on the table. While the play was primarily focused on Islamophobia, Akhtar sought to address the greater picture which begs the question, what is our own implicit bias?

And how do we reconcile our differing values against one’s cultural beliefs? How does one sift out the good values from the bad when it comes to faith? Amir’s role as an agnostic who turned his back on Islam sheds light on this issue. Many things have been said on the addressing of Islamophobia but not much on Muslims themselves. Hardwired into Amir are Islamic values, some of which are portrayed to be extreme in the face of modernity – to which he drew a connection had no place in today’s world. He believes that even the remote connection that people make of him to his faith and community will cause him to be isolated and bypassed for promotion at work. On the contrary, Abe decides that he must embrace extremism because he will always be isolated and judged no matter how hard he tries to assimilate.

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PHOTO: SRT

The portrayal of Amir as an agnostic who turned his back on Islam, Isaac as a progressive Jew are not exactly the best role models for both faiths in question but it does not have to be because we hardly find perfect people with perfect representations in real life. Even Jory’s role as an African-American minority and a sceptic of Islam – perhaps representing the majority of Trump’s Islamophobic supporters in light of the recent election results – is not accidental.

To these problems, Akhtar has no answers. And that is the greatness of Akhtar’s play directed by Nate Silvers. Even if we pretend that everything is status quo or cordial, race, language and religion has and will continue to be a divisive topic. And oftentimes, we forget that the people (Muslims) who are at the centre of debate also have to deal with identity issues of their own. Perhaps knowledge will empower us to make better choices when it comes to socio-cultural issues.

Topics on faith and race are always contentious subjects but kudos to the entire SRT team for a job well done in bringing these often-swept-under-the-carpet issues to light in a matter that is not condescending to the audience. I would also like to acknowledge MDA for giving the go-ahead for this sensitive but important play to be performed in local theatre. Two thumbs up!

Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar

KC Arts Centre

Opens 16 November to 4 December 2016

Located in a spacious Upper East Side apartment in New York, Amir has worked hard to achieve the American Dream. With South Asian Muslim roots, he has gone on to become a successful lawyer, has a beautiful American wife and even a wardrobe of $600 custom-tailored shirts.

But when Amir hosts a dinner party for his African American colleague and her Jewish husband, the initially pleasant evening erupts into a volatile argument over race, religion and class in the modern world.

Ticket Pricing: $35 – $60

Web Link: Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar

My Mother Buys Condoms: Love, Sex And Senior Citizens?

Can society accept senior citizens falling in love (and having sex)?

Imagining one’s mother or father falling in love with someone else in their 60s isn’t exactly the thing to whet up one’s appetite, neither is watching them ‘go at it’ in theatre the most exhilarating centerpiece act. Thankfully, the latter does not take place except for a harmless peck and some hugs.

One of 8 plays put up by W!LD RICE’s Singapore Theatre Festival, My Mother Buys Condoms examines society’s attitudes towards sex and senior citizens. Written by playwright Helmi Yusof and directed by Ivan Heng, the multi-layered play with a saucy title is already sold out (sorry folks!). Starring Lok Meng Chue, Remesh Panicker, Elnie S. Mashari, Joshua Lim and Seong Hui Xian, My Mother Buys Condoms runs from 14 to 24 July 2016.

The entire play takes place in Maggie’s living room. Maggie (Lok) is a retired 63 year old literature teacher and divorcee with two grown kids. Raju (Panicker), a 57 year old owner of a local air-con servicing company personally attends to Maggie’s house call to fix the living room’s air-conditioner. Strangely, the business owner does not have any employee to perform these small jobs. Egged by comic relief friend and fellow teacher Nora (Elnie), Maggie decides to strike a deal with Raju, giving him 10 English lessons in exchange for a new air-con unit. Raju promises Maggie a new air-con unit, “I will give you all the protection you want, satisfaction guaranteed“, cringe-worthy and as though signifying what is to come.

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PHOTO: W!LD RICE

“Mrs Lee, if you are in the room, I want to be in the room.”

Upon departure of her children and best friends, deafening silence sweeps into the set as Maggie takes a seat and stares at her book in the quiet of her living room, giving hint of her loneliness. Fast forward to the sixth lesson, Raju accidentally came into contact with Maggie when he laid his hand on hers to which the latter reacted by chasing him out.

Turns out, the two had feelings for each other but Maggie had to deal with her inner struggles caused by her ex-husband who told her that he couldn’t stand being in the same room as her. Raju replies “Mrs Lee, if you are in the room, I want to be in the room.”

The two reconciled and consummated their relationship as we were led to discover – bra and panty everywhere. What followed were a series of hilarious conversations as Maggie attempts to conceal the truth behind her buying condoms by accusing her Muslim friend of having a lover.

The conversations treads between funny and awkward such as when Raju exclaims that “The Japan one (condom) too small” and when Wilfred calls Raju a literal “Mother fucker“. It all goes into the gutters when Nora and Maggie’s children all discovers the truth about Raju. Placed between a rock and a hard place, Maggie was forced to choose between her family (conforming to traditional conventions) or love and passion.

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PHOTO: W!LD RICE

The intentions behind My Mother Buys Condoms were clear. Is falling in love at a ripe old age so wrong, or is it simply because of our own bias and perception that leads us to reject everything that does not go in line with our own beliefs? It is always easy to play the condemning figure, unless we are the victims ourselves.

My Mother Buys Condoms sings a similar tune to LGBT play where the playwrights asks the question, what does it take for society to grant (one and all) the freedom to love? In one scene, Maggie asks Raju (who has never married before) if he has never been with a woman to which Raju replies “Mrs Lee, I am a man.” This reply hints that Panicker’s character visited prostitutes or has had several casual flings in his earlier years, hence the need for condoms. In spite of this, Maggie loves Raju all the same because when love comes, it comes. And love is love.

Nora, Elnie’s character represents opposition of religion where romances of such calibre are considered harem (forbidden). Maggie’s daughter Gwen played by Seong was the only empathetic one, but only because she has secrets of her own – she is a lesbian. That was perhaps the play’s way of saying that only the marginalised understands the pain of the marginalised, when it shouldn’t be that way. I did however feel that inserting Gwen’s LGBT plot-line was unnecessary.

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PHOTO: W!LD RICE

Maggie’s son Wilfred played by Lim with his ‘complete family with two daughters’ represents the majority of Singaporeans who would otherwise frown on such ‘immoral’ behavior. But is there an age limit to falling in love though? And should the opinions of others matter more to us than our own happiness?

My Mother Wears Condoms is a hilarious yet insightful take on romance and old age which I thought is so relevant to Singapore today than ever before as we continue to see increase in divorce cases between seniors age 50 and above.

What I could not wrap my head around was how a relationship could develop out of six English lessons and from a mere hand contact. I would also have preferred to see Maggie falling in love with a 20-something though. That would have been a real scandal. RW

Unfortunately, My Mother Buys Condoms is completely sold out. GRC and Hotel, the remaining two Singapore Theatre Festival plays are also completely sold out.

LGBT: A Peek Into The Thought Life Of The Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders

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).

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PHOTO: W!LD RICE

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.

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Ibrahim’s character who sounded out the injustice of perception, people being okay with LGBT in theatre but not in reality | PHOTO: W!LD RICE

“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.

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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.

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PHOTO: W!LD RICE

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?

 

 

Shakespeare In The Park: The Tragedy of Romeo & Juliet Beautifully Retold

Indulge in Shakespeare’s most famous play about passion and young love at Fort Canning Park.

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Oh, pardon me. Got a little carried away.

Non-profit charity, Singapore Repertory Theatre is back with Romeo & Juliet, their 9th Shakespeare in the Park production at Fort Canning Park. This year’s play was also made that much meaningful since it coincides with the 400th death anniversary of The Bard, William Shakespeare himself.

The public can purchase 7.30pm show tickets from 27 April to 22 May. Ticket prices start from S$40 (for information on ticket prices, click here). The leading roles are played by Thomas Pang (Tribes) and Cheryl Tan (Beauty World, Red Riding Hood).

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The play opens with a handcuffed Friar Laurence giving an opening exposition for the story of the star-cross’d lovers. The Montagues and the Capulets, members from the feuding families trade verbal blows in a stage setting that was divided by colour codes blue and red, a concept cleverly thought out by set designer Frank O’Conner. It also bears uncanny resemblance to the Team Captain America and Team Iron Man publicity gimmick from Marvel’s latest installment of The Avengers film.

The characters’ costumes are an assortment of modern and confusing East-meets-West wears as we see characters dressed in modern clothes (hoodies and tank tops) and Chinese robes? Romeo comes into play decked in tee-shirt, denim overalls and a cap, as though telling the audience not to take him – and his age – too seriously (Juliet is 13 years old in the play, but the age of Romeo was never made known by Shakespeare).

The play advances in the plot trivialities, all of which were forgotten the moment Juliet performs her monologue scene after meeting Romeo at the party. Laying down on her balcony, our protagonist makes her case for her falling head-over-heels with Romeo, and cries out for him in an almost-sexual fashion. Her beau hears her, and the two affirmed each other with their words of love and passion – so potent it gave me goosebumps upon goosebumps.

SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - Romeo & Juliet

PHOTO: Courtesy of SRT

Cheryl Tan in SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - Romeo & Juliet (4)

PHOTO: Courtesy of SRT

The rest of the play proceeds very much according to Shakespeare’s original literature – with slight variations here and there – although it was really such a delight to see this classic play being performed once again. The brilliance of the play was owed to every actor who so skillfully brought these iconic Shakespeare characters to life. Staying true to the source text amid a modern adaptation, SRT’s latest Shakespeare In The Park production tells audiences that literature classics such as Romeo and Juliet are best enjoyed in the form of a play (like those in Shakespeare’s time).

But I am not buying the ‘greatest love story ever told’ rhetoric namely because Juliet was acknowledged to be 13 year’s old – faithful to the original literature. Age should not be a hindrance to love, but what can a 13-year-old know about love, especially since her love interest Romeo also completely (and conveniently) forgets all about Rosalind, his previous object of infatuation. Plus, it is almost ridiculous to (want to) die for someone you know for barley a week, a point highlighted by Shakespeare himself.

Yet Romeo and Juliet is for me what a real loving relationship should possess; red-hot passion and fervent yearn between lovers. Portraying the most famous lovers in theatre history can be sticky, but Pang (first leading role in a major production) and Tan were simply brilliant to watch on stage with their sweet resonating of each other. Every dialogue and every moment between the two was precious as I trace their every word and step like a hopeless romantic (like Romeo) for that 2 and a half hours.

While Pang and Tan were the stars of the show, the other actors more than performed their roles with gusto. The story may end in tragedy but everything about the play was on point and I really can’t find any fault whatsoever.

Company in SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - Romeo & Juliet (2)

PHOTO: Courtesy of SRT

Rumour has it that this year’s staging of Romeo & Juliet could be SRT’s last Shakespeare In The Park. A recent article published by The Straits Times confirms this to be true. What with the increasing production and manpower costs, producing a play of such magnitude in Fort Canning Park is proving to be unsustainable for SRT, especially since the the non-profit organisation relies heavily on ticket sales.

It would be such a pity to take such an enriching cultural activity from Singapore, seeing as more and more Singaporeans are warming up to Shakespearean plays and the arts in the broader prospective. It seems that the reception of this year’s play will decide if there will be another next year. So, make haste! Tell your friends about Shakespeare In The Park: Romeo & Juliet and get them to catch tickets to the play!

Many thanks to SRT for the media invite. Thank you for reading this review and “Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.” RW

 

Shakespeare in the Park – Romeo and Juliet

Fort Canning Park

Opens 27 April to 22 May 2016

Brought to you by the company that has captivated thousands each year with its successful productions of The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.

Spread your picnic blanket under the stars and relish in the greatest love story ever told – Romeo & Juliet.

Ticket Pricing: $40 – $85

Web Link: Shakespeare in the Park – Romeo and Juliet

Women: New Portraits By Annie Leibovitz

Raw, powerful, and unfinished is Annie Leibovitz’s latest exhibition. It’s a must-go.

Annie Leibovitz needs no introduction. After all, the 66-year-old American photographer – whose photographs has graced the covers of Vanity Fair and Rolling Stones umpteenth times – is possibly as renowned as the countless number of politicians, celebrities and popular figures she has photographed over the past four decades. First published as part of the 1999 book project ‘WOMEN’, the new exhibition showcases new additions to the project and reflects changes in the roles of women today.

Singapore is the fourth stopover in Leibovitz’s 10-city international exhibition tour (We are so fortunate!). The exhibition was in the words of Leibovitz, ‘anti-museum’ as evident from the choice of venue (Tanjong Pagar Railway Station) and also features photos of high-achieving women such as Nobel Prize winner and activist Malala Yousafzai, Myanmar politician Aung San Suu Kyi, and activist Gloria Steinem.

PHOTO: ubs.com

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Leibovitz was not shy to call her exhibition a “work-in-progress just like all women are” (ST, 30 April 2016). It is easy to see why. Don’t expect to walk into an exhibition space all jazzed up like her previous exhibition held at the ArtScience Museum in 2014 – because it isn’t. The main exhibition hall consists of just a dozen LED TVs and less than a dozen display panels featuring her new photos.In two adjacent rooms, visitors can also view Leibovitz’s personal collection of books featuring her own photographs as well as those by other critically acclaimed photographers.

I made my way to the exhibition on the opening day with high hopes of meeting Leibovitz in-person but was told that she had already made her way to Hong Kong – oh bummer! What I really like about the exhibition was its raw, unpretentious and unfinished presentation. Even the portraits taken were of these high-achieving women in their natural setting – a step away from the glamourous shots Leibovitz is known for. What is left is the silent confidence and power of the women immortalised in photo.

PHOTO: theguardian.com | Malala Yousafzai taken by Annie Leibovitz and part of the WOMEN series.

PHOTO: pinterest.com | Aung San Suu Kyi taken by Annie Leibovitz and part of the WOMEN series.

PHOTO: racked.com | John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken by Annie Leibovitz for Rolling Stone on the day Lennon was shot.

PHOTO: vanityfair.com | Demi Moore, taken by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair 1991 before everybody started copying this idea.

Visitors also have the opportunity to flip through Leibovitz’s US$2,500 Sumo-sized book containing photos from her illustrious 4-decade career. I flipped through all 476 pages of it. It was awesome.

To some, Leibovitz may simply be photographing and documenting famous personalities. But in my opinion she is every bit of a personality, and even an artist if I can put it that way. The exhibition is free and I highly recommend everyone to check it out. Leave your DSLRs at home though, photographing the photos are not allowed with the exception of camera phones.

But if anything, this exhibition is far from complete. I look forward to Leibovitz’s additions of new women at the next exhibition in the coming decade. RW

WOMEN: New Portraits Annie Leibovitz

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

Opens 29 April to 22 May 2016

Annie Leibovitz’s most enduringly popular series of photographs ‘WOMEN’ was published in 1999. The new exhibition WOMEN: New Portraits reflects the changes in the roles of women today. In addition to the new photographs, the exhibition includes work from the original series as well as other photographs taken since.

Ticket Pricing: Free

Web Link: WOMEN: New Portraits Annie Leibovitz