City News Feature: Making Divine Connections

Christian dating can be a minefield. Divine Connect’s Cindy Leong is the go-to person for those looking to make a connection with the opposite sex.

By: REUEL EUGENE TAY

We all know 2 Corinthians 13 is the chapter about love, but few have internalised it and turned it into a lifelong career helping people find love. Meet dating and relationship coach Cindy Leong, 30, co-founder of matchmaking agency Divine Connect. Leong is a multi-hyphenate who is also the founder of personal development consultancy Relationship Studio, the author of two books on love, a regular contributor to local radio stations and magazines, and she helps with City Harvest Church’s City Connexion programme, aimed at getting singles in church to forge meaningful interactions. Leong is also the resident expert in City Radio’s 17-part series SINGULAH which discusses Christian dating.

 

CITY NEWS WEEKLY: How did you get started in this business of matchmaking?

CINDY LEONG: I think it is really a calling. Have majored in business at polytechnic, the natural progression for me was to go to business school in university. But I felt led to enrol in CHC’s Bible school instead. After Bible school, there was no place for me in business school—because of the baby boom during the year of the Dragon! Strangely, I was offered a place in Singapore Management University’s Social Sciences faculty even though I did not apply for it. I picked psychology as my major and there was this module on the science behind attractiveness that really intrigued me. During that time, I was already helping many people who were having problems with relationships. It got to a point where people were telling me, “Hey Cindy, you are quite good at this. Why don’t you turn it into a business to help people?” And that was how it all got started.

 

Tell us about Divine Connect.
I met Deon the owner of Love Express, a dating agency centered on events, back when I was just the chief coach for Relationship Studio. Deon is also a Christian and she has been running her agency for ten years. We both agreed that the pursuit of love isn’t just about robotically attending events after events, it’s about becoming a better version of yourself and about making meaningful relationships. So we set up Divine Connect, a Christian matchmaking agency providing personalized matching for our clients. Our team comprises of five coaches and two image consultants, all of whom are Christians.

We put every client that walks through our door through Enneagram profiling. (Enneagram is a personality test). Knowing their Enneagram type helps our clients to understand their pattern of thinking. Thereafter, we do customized one-to-one matching for all our clients, arranging between three to 10 potential matches depending on their specific Enneagram profiles and personality. Our clients are also given one-to-one coaching and they may attend our workshops to further better themselves. So far, our success rate has been pretty high. Many of our clients found their ideal type within the first or second match.

 

How many successful couples have you brought together till date?
I’ve lost count! I would say close to 100 couples.

 

What are the three main reasons why Christian men and women have such difficulty finding their life partner? How can they resolve this issue?
Christian relationships are a little more complicated than secular relationships. Firstly, you have to agree on several fronts such as the level of your faith, allocation of time for ministry and church, or sometimes even on the same doctrine. Secondly, many Christian men are just not taking initiative or are simply too slow to act. They over-think or over-analyze—“I need to pray first”—and before you know it, they have made a girl wait an entire year. And there is also this thing about “reputation”. Let’s say, on hindsight, you meet the right one after dating the third person you meet. “What if the people in church think that I am a playboy or a playgirl? How will people look at me?” So people become afraid to try. On the contrary, guys outside of church will just go for the girl immediately. This is something our guys can learn! (laughs)

Some Christian ladies also have some unrealistic expectations such as desiring someone as spiritual as Pastor Kong and as handsome as Mark Kwan. There aren’t many such people around! I would tell the ladies, “You may want a guy like this, but do you know if you are the girl he wants? If you don’t, then you may not be positioning yourself correctly.” Our ladies need to manage their expectations and be brutally honest with themselves.

 

Many people believe that going to professional matchmaking services should be the “last resort”. What is your take on this? When is the right age to try out matchmaking services?
This was usually the case in the past but things have changed. In fact, I do get young people in their 20s who come to me as their first choice and say, “Cindy, you just choose for me lah. You know my personality.” To be honest, it’s not so simple. Your social circle shrinks the moment you graduate from school. It will take you another three years to realise “Oh dear, I’m not making any new friends!” And soon you will realise that all the people you are meeting are either your colleagues or your clients—all work-related people.

 

Can you give readers three exclusive tips on building meaningful relationships?
First things first, you’ve got to have clarity with yourself. You have to know what you want in life. Secondly, you have to be authentic; the last thing you want to do in a relationship is to put on a mask. Lastly, you got to work on communication. If there are any misunderstandings, sometimes it could be due to your own insecurities or certain things you have not dealt with in your past. If you need healing, say so. Don’t be so caught up with “saving face” or be afraid to show your own insecurities. It helps if you can look at conflicts as an opportunity for healing rather than assuming that the other party is trying to pick a fight because he or she has a ill intention. You can strengthen your relationship if you are willing to show your vulnerability.

 

This article was first featured in City News’ Candlelight Service special issue. 

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?