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

Can’t Picture That Dream Flat? Put On This VR Headset

Virtual reality technology has taken the property viewing experience to a whole new level.

By Reuel Eugene Tay

Can't Picture That Dream Flat? Put On This VR Headset

I’m standing in the living room of a high-storey four-bedroom Highline Residences Condominium apartment. The home looks stunning. There’s gentle music playing in the background while I explore the premise from room to room. I can even see the Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer from the balcony.

It’s all fantastic…except that the said condominium is still under construction. I have just viewed a show suite that hasn’t even been completed, thanks to virtual reality (VR). Keppel Land is the first developer in Singapore to create 360-degree immersive VR show suites harnessing the state-of-the-art Oculus Rift technology. Leveraging VR technology, visitors get an accurate visual depiction of their potential future home, and immerse in the sights and sounds of the charming Tiong Bahru district. Visitors can try out the Oculus Rift VR headsets at Highline Residences Sales Gallery starting 15 October 2016.

The technology is also highly mobile, allowing Keppel Land to bring the show suites to the visitors wherever they are at—the mall, at home, or even in another country. The VR show suites also allows visitors to view the four-bedroom and low-rise three-bedroom layout which are not available at the current Highline Residences Sales Gallery.

Can't Picture That Dream Flat? Put On This VR HeadsetThe entire VR setup–made in partnership with VMW Group—took two months to complete and cost approximately $250,000. While property portal Propertyguru might have launched the VR mobile showroom, a similar concept a few months earlier, the tech is incomparable to that of the Oculus Rift (the star product of a VR technology company bought over by Facebook in 2014).

Once I put on the Oculus Rift VR headset, I was transported to Tiong Bahru Market Hawker Centre—it was as though I was right there. Over the next three minutes, I was brought to the popular amenities surrounding the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood from Tiong Bahru Bakery to the popular bookstore BooksActually. Finally, I arrived at Highline Residences where I got to walk the ground in the realistic show suites in the comfort of my seat.

“Keppel Land is constantly exploring new ways to provide our customers with an enhanced experience. Harnessing Oculus Rift VR technology, we are now able to showcase different configurations and apartment types without having to create the physical show suite, which is a more efficient solution especially in land-scarce cities such as Singapore,” said Albert Foo, General Manager of Marketing at Keppel Land. At press time, Foo has also confirmed that Oculus Rift VR will be a standard feature for all Keppel Land private residential projects in the future.

While I may have visited multiple showrooms as part of my work, seeing a show suite via VR was a first for me, and it was a pleasant experience. Singaporeans will have something new to look forward to as we see developers innovate the show-flat viewing experience, even if it means bringing the show-flat to them. Who knows, it might even be a standard feature for resale property viewings in the near future.

Can't Picture That Dream Flat? Put On This VR HeadsetThe 500-unit Highline Residences 99-year leasehold development is located just minutes away from Tiong Bahru MRT station and upcoming Havelock MRT station. Opened two years ago, the Highline Residences Sales Gallery showcases three physical show suites–one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, although there are four-bedroom units available too. Approximately 88 percent of the 320 launched units have been sold as at end-September 2016. Prices range from $1700 to $1900 per sq ft.

The virtual show suites will be made available to the general public at the Highline Residences Sales Gallery at Kim Tian Road from 15 October between 10am to 6pm daily. For more information about Highline Residences, log on to https://www.keppellandlive.com/highline.

 

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in City News on October 16, 2016.

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?

 

 

The Art of Being Bald

Reuelwrites documents his journey, stereotypes and the confronting of his inner demons as a bald human being.

Hi, I’m Reuel Eugene. I’m a Singaporean Chinese. I write pretty well and I was a finalist for best OMY individual blog 2015. I’m as healthy as an ox. I give my level best to my clients as a property agent and I’m pretty good at speaking too. I love to do backpacking, I appreciate art, I am good with holding my own in conversation, and some ladies say my one-liners are pretty smooth. Oh, and I’m bald.

Awkward silence. Balding is often viewed (by both the individual and third parties as being) on the same level as a death sentence, and I sure felt like it was the end of the world for me as I went through this condition. What’s wrong with being bald? Are we any lesser than other human beings with a head full of hair? Before we go further, let me share my own story of how I came to be the One-Punch Man a baldie.

I grew up in a family where everyone in my paternal grandparent’s side of the family had to contend with hair loss. But when you’re a kid and you have a head full of hair, the thought that you could be dealing with hair loss one day just never occurred. There was even a point of time in my adolescent years when I was cussing for having thick wavy hair. As I turned 18, I began to notice more hair in the hair trap of the shower drain. I thought to myself, “It’s just a little more than usual.” The incident became an issue which eventually turned into a crisis of sorts the year that I was in bible school in 2011. I was only 22 then. I noticed that there is a very significant void (aka no hair) at the crown of my head and the ever-receding hairline.

Having dealt with low self-esteem since my childhood days, experiencing hair loss even before reaching adulthood was a big blow to my esteem and I honestly struggled to contain my emotions. That same year, I enlisted into national service. Needless to say, my hairstyle and I was the butt of jokes for the assholes. Struggling to mitigate the problem, I turned to prayer, hair loss shampoos and even Yun Nam (which costed a fortune). All was ineffective until I found Caboki.

Caboki is a hair concealer and it worked like a charm. How it works is that, its fibers will stick onto your existing hair, making the bald spots look that much fuller. I perfected the art of using Caboki (it requires some skill) and managed to conceal my hair loss for a good two years. But I know that the solution was only temporary and I have to face this condition again eventually. As my hair continues to shed, it was becoming increasingly difficult to conceal the hair loss. Plus, I felt like I was living a lie. I felt terrible that I had to measure up to the social norms of a ‘healthy body image’.

I felt so lousy about myself and I always asked (God) why it has to be me, at this young age? I engaged in much negative self-talk, allowing my inner demon to beat the pulp out of me, telling me I’m worthless and ugly.

PHOTO: Caboki.com

In October 2015, as I prepared myself for my jaw surgery, I told myself that I don’t want to live a lie anymore. I want to love myself for who I am. So what if I’m bald? So what if people will stare? So what? Does that make me a lesser human being? Should people’s judgement over me matter that much to me? With that, I took the plunge and shaved my head the day that I admitted into hospital for the surgery. The experience was liberating in the first few days but it quickly died off as I struggled with my self image and esteem.

I hid behind my post-surgery excuse as cover, staying at home and not going out so that I don’t have to see anyone – or to be seen by anyone for that matter. My church members were caring and they came to visit, even though I wasn’t comfortable with being seen in my ‘state’. But eventually, I knew that I can’t hide forever, since I already decided to bare, or should I say bald it all? (Laughs)

The day that I decided to go to church, I met my dear friend Serene on the way and she encouraged me repeatedly that I looked fine (when you get the approval from a beautiful air stewardess, things gets better lol). I never realised how important it was to me to look right to people and stepping to church was tough (stemming from my lifelong struggle with self-esteem, I always felt the need to impress the people I know in church). Slowly but surely, I began to heal.

I went on two backpacking trips (read my guide to Vietnam here) and met so many travellers, strangers who have never saw the full-headed me. We hung out, had fun and drank (quite a bit). Today, I am proud to say that I have confronted my inner demons (and won). I love myself, with and without hair. Honestly, there will still be days where I wish I still have a head full of hair, but I am thankful nevertheless even without it.

1. Bald People Cannot Succeed

It’s damn irritating when people call me ‘One Punch Man’. Trust me, if I really was the character, I will punch you | PHOTO: taringa.net

Have you ever heard from people that being bald is bad for business? I have. Being a real estate agent that I am, I have heard clients, friends and even relatives telling me that I shouldn’t shave as it’s ‘not good for business especially my line of work’. Firstly, I disagree. Not just because I am in the sales line, but I refused to accept that I cannot succeed just because I am bald. According to many researches online, it was reported that guys with shaved heads are also seen as 13% stronger, taller and having greater leadership potential than guys with a full head or thinning hair.

Rather than being viewed as incompetent, men who go bald are viewed to be dominant, people who take charge, people who end up as the helm and main decision-makers of top companies. I’m not saying that being bald is a prerequisite to being successful, but that we have equal chances of being successful – if we put in the same amount of hard work and effort.

2. Bald People Are Not Attractive

bald

For too long, we were conditioned to believe that a beautiful woman is one who has long silky hair like those Pantene models, and men should have manbuns (currently trending). Hair loss is like contracting Aids. Suddenly, you become the lowest lifeform, the undesirable, the scum of the earth. But as we look back at history, we know beauty to be subjective – influenced by popular culture and sentiments of the time.

Take plump for example. European women who were plump during the Renaissance period (14th to 17th century) were often viewed as attractive. This is not the sentiment shared by people of our times because of our conditioning of beauty via the television media since young. Just like the unhealthy body image of wanting to match up in slimness, it is unhealthy to despise oneself just because one is bald. In history, the Manchurians (Chinese), Japanese and several other races were known for practising the bald culture.

There are also plenty of attractive-looking (and successful) bald people portrayed in the media as well. Examples include the likes of Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, The Rock Dwayne Johnson, Patrick Stewart, Michael Jordan, Samuel L Jackson, Sean Connery, Ben Kingsley, to name a few.

Of course, not everyone can rock the bald look but it takes balls guts to go bald in a world that is defined by the media according to how stylish your hair is, how big your biceps is, how thin your thighs are and how big your boobs are. I think that courage is attractive.

3. Bald People Can’t Find Life Partners

PHOTO: Returnofkings.com

I take offense with this because I want to get married someday and show filial piety by giving my parents the grandchildren that they have been longing for (Laughs). Someone recently told me that I should wear a wig because girls don’t like guys who are bald. I found that to be offensive and absurd really. Firstly, that is saying that girls (or guys) are shallow and can only go out with a guy for how he looks and not for his character. Today, we are often told (by the media) to value image over character and everything else

In an exaggerated example, Guy A has Brad Pitt looks but treats you like shit, while Guy B is bald but he knows how to treat a lady right. Whom would you prefer? For too long we have been conditioned to view baldness as a disease. Hair treatment companies bombard us with their hair loss treatments over television, and the media tells us that people with hair loss are ‘ugly’… When there is nothing wrong with being bald.

I don’t know about you, but I believe love should be about passion and commitment, not about how much hair one has on his or her head, isn’t it? In some extreme post-natal scenario, women experiences hair-loss after giving birth. But you don’t see men forsaking their wives do you?

Of course a balding man/woman might not look as good as a ‘normal’ man/woman, but baldness doesn’t make them any less of a lover. Period.

4. Bald People Should Seek Treatment

PHOTO: Plusizekitten.com

First of all, we must establish if balding is really a terrible disease? For some people, balding is in the genes and they simply can’t help losing hair – unless they pay tens of thousands of dollars on hair loss treatments, all of which can be better invested in properties for future dividends (let me know if you want to invest in a property in Singapore!). For some, balding was an inevitable process after seeking treatment (Chemotherapy for example).

Being a traveller and having participated in social work through the years, I know that balding is a negligible condition compared to people with bigger problems and illnesses. Problems like poverty and starvation. Illnesses like cancer, celebral palsy, heart disease, loss of limb, et cetera. These are the real illnesses and problems that require full, immediate attention. Not hair-loss. One might lose hair (early as in my case), but that shouldn’t stop us from living a full and enriching life that many others are deprived of, especially those in impoverished countries.

Today, there might be some of you brothers and sisters who are struggling with hair-loss just as I had and are considering your options. Yes, you can try the hair-loss treatments, yes you can buy Caboki to conceal your hair-loss, yes you can wear a wig or a cap, but at the end of the day, all I want to tell you is, You got to learn to love yourself for who you are, not how you look. Only when you love yourself, can healing take place. You are no lesser than every other human being! So what if you don’t have hair?

In the end, we all want happiness and we will all eventually return to the earth as dusts. I don’t want to remember for how much hair I managed to retain on my head, but how loving I was to my family and friends, and my contribution to society. RW