VISION: Back with New Tricks and Mind-boggling Illusions

A visual spectacle of disappearing (and reappearing) sports convertible and human bodies, VISION is the spectacular illusion show it promises to be.

Returning to the Esplanade Theatre after their sellout 2011 show, VISION‘s Lawrence and Priscilla Khong are back to delight and intrigue audiences in the mystical world of illusion-theatre. VISION production by Gateway Entertainment runs from 3rd to 12th July.

I must declare that I had been apathetic for a long time when it comes to illusions. The reason? I ‘was conned’ into learning amateurish illusion tricks from a secondary school senior for a hefty price of $15-$30 a trick! But VISION restored my faith in the art form. I will try to write this review without giving away too much – It’s no fun if you already know what tricks are going to be performed next, isn’t it?

The show opens with Priscilla winding up her imaginary ballerina doll. In her imagination, the dolls comes to life as she winds it up. Daddy Lawrence comes home and persuades daughter to go to bed. Priscilla isn’t going to do so unless daddy tells her an original story he made up. Daddy tells his story which storyline was really borrowed from another story ‘Where the Wild Things Are‘; a story mummy told young Priscilla when she was young. Priscilla questions daddy “Where’s mummy?” The two shared a sweet moment when daddy performs a magic trick with a yellow ball, telling young Priscilla that when she’s feeling alone, daddy will always there for her.

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Fast forward to the present, the duo is ‘performing live’ to the audiences. The duo performed a variety of illusions which also includes making a real BMW convertible appear on stage under the supervisory presence of four audience-witnesses on stage.

At present, Priscilla is as equally talented an illusionist as her father is and her frustrations boiled to the surface when Lawrence questions why she was distracted during the performance. Priscilla exploded, expressing her disappointment at her father for not being there for her, not visiting mummy’s grave and for always using magic tricks to pacify her when she can no longer be distracted by them.

Priscilla runs off into the ‘disappearing’ cage again and disappears again with Lawrence following close behind. Lawrence finds himself in Priscilla’s subconscious mind and performs a coin trick to appease the whacky characters within. Members of the audience were picked to throw ‘coins’ they found at their area into an empty cylinder held by Lawrence on stage which obviously becomes the mysterious coin-collecting apparatus. The story becomes really dark as crazy, joker-like manifestations of Priscilla’s hurts and bitterness threatens to destroy both Lawrence and Priscilla. Priscilla takes centre stage in her fantasy, Priscilla summons a masked, murderous ‘Creature’. who appears out of nowhere. The Creature unmasks itself, lo and behold, Priscilla is the Creature itself. Wasn’t she standing somewhere else?

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Of course, In a family-friendly theatrical show such as VISION, the ending must be a happy one. Lawrence eventually finds forgiveness and acceptance. The two escapes the alternate universe (or Priscilla’s subconscious mind, that I am not so certain about this anymore) and performs the closing trick to the ‘2nd part of their magic show’. As with every magic show, the last must always be the most mind-blowing one. The final act involving the BMW convertible from earlier was so mind-blowing that it left me quite stupefied to be frank.

Besides the mind-boggling illusions, VISION has a pretty neat storyline and pacing. Call it misdirection, mental illusion, play of lights or special props, VISION exceeded my expectations and kept me entertained throughout. I thought that the ‘simple’ magic yellow ball as plot device was pretty cool in contrast to the other more spectacular tricks. I like the ‘live audience’ scene where Lawrence and Priscilla were performed a Mise en abyme – performing a magic show in a magic show. It reminded me very much of the Hollywood film ‘Now You See Me‘ of a show within a show – very ingenious. In another scene, Lawrence enters Priscilla’s subconscious mind, into a quirky and enigmatic alternate world where dolls have a life of their own. That quirky world became eerier and horrifying as the ‘demons’ replaces quirky characters and dolls.

Lawrence must find a way to salvage the situation and save his daughter from that alternate universe before all is lost. In that regard, Lawrence had a pretty similar encounter to Alice (in Wonderland), who also enters an alternate universe through a rabbit hole where inquisitive creatures are soon replaced by sinister beings. While at the start, we are quite clear that Lawrence and Priscilla are both in her subconscious mind, that understanding becomes rather undefinable. Are they in her subconscious mind or are they in Inception?

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In that alternate universe, Priscilla transports Lawrence to his childhood days and had Lawrence perform the same yellow ball magic trick to the younger Lawrence. He tells the younger Lawrence that he has a feeling that Lawrence will become a ‘great magician someday’. Lawrence then recounts that that was the moment where he fell in love with magic. This creates a ‘problematic’ time-loop/predestination paradox where the events (and characters) of the past was impacted by the events (and characters) of the future through some form of ‘time travel’. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy not unlike films like Donnie Darko, Predestination, Butterfly Effect, etc – where an older Lawrence has to return to the past to inspire his younger self to fall in love with magic, thus repeating the endless loop – the mistake of negating his family.

The not so good: I’m not very comfortable with the excessive use of red lights which definitely creates that nightmarish presence in Priscilla’s subconscious mind. Also, there seems to be a slight disconnect between young Priscilla and older Priscilla’s account of their mother’s passing. The lead characters are rich in layers and I wish they could develop Lawrence’s story further. The story reaches a dramatic climax but ‘lands’ abruptly in a happy ending. The disappearing and reappearing acts, levitation, the car trick et cetera were definitely well executed. But I wish we could see more variety instead of the staple disappearing acts in the show.

Other than that, I am sold on this show. VISION was indeed a spectacular visual spectacle with a pretty well-written story plot and well-timed pacing to ensure that audiences are entertained throughout the show. The VISION set was also extravagant, adding to the entire viewing experience. Lawrence, Priscilla and team clearly outdone themselves on this one. Despite similar storyline and tricks, VISION manages to reinvent themselves from their 2011 show, keeping the performance ‘fresh’.

Many thanks to VISION for the media invite. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would recommend it to anyone and everyone looking to be entertained by pretty awesome illusions. RW

VISION 2015

Esplanade Theatre

Opens 3 to 12 July 2015

Singapore’s only professional illusionist duo Lawrence and Priscilla Khong will once again bring to the audience a world-class performance that promises to be even bigger and grander on all fronts than ever before.

Ticket Pricing: $28 – $118

Web Link: VISION 2015

Singapura: The Musical – The Singapore Story Gone Wrong

The first Broadway musical to tell Singapore’s story, Singapura: The Musical was every bit of a mistake from beginning to end.

Singapore may be a small maritime nation with a relatively short history, but her rich and tumultuous past leading to independence makes for a good musical. Sadly, Singapura: The Musical isn’t it. The musical which runs from 19 May to 21 June was composed and written by 4th Wall Theatre Company’s composer-creator Ed Gatchalian and scriptwriter Joel Trinidad both hailing from the Philippines. Seeking to tell ‘Singapore’s untold stories’ and even staging the musical in its country of origins, the theatre company was undertaking a colossal project which they unfortunately failed to deliver.

Sitting through Singapura: The Musical was like taking a Skinkansen (Japan’s bullet train) through Singapore’s history. The Hock Lee Bus Riot, Singapore and Malaysia’s merger and separation, everything was touch and go. The musical’s pacing was so rushed, it did not give audiences any breathing space to think and absorb in what it was like to live through what was to be some of the most important milestone in Singapore’s history between 1955 to 1965.

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All of a sudden, we are being fed with information that a boy was shot and killed. All of a sudden, the protagonist’s family wants to leave for Melaka. All of a sudden, the man in white (presumably Mr Lee) was petitioning for the country’s merger. All of a sudden, the musical’s protagonist falls in love with an ‘ang-moh’ (Caucasian). The musical simply could not decide their focal point as to which and what Singapore story to tell.

I may understand that the relationship of protagonist Lee May (played by Marian Santiago) and her British officer boyfriend is a metaphor of Singapore’s relationship with her coloniser – if it was ever their intention – but really? Is this necessary to tackle interracial marriage in a musical that sought to tell Singapore’s story?

In their second song item, they performed ‘Kopitiam’, a song that depicts everyday life at Singaporeans’ favourite hangout place. I cringed everytime they sang out the word ‘Kopitiam’. The actors could also certainly sing, but the lyrics and tune were terrible. Forgettable, cringe-worthy tunes mixed in with lyrics that were badly written, I could barely stay on my seat, only sitting through the entire musical as a form of respect to the actors. The cast which were mostly Filipino sang really well, but their attempts to speak Singlish evidently showed that they were far from ready to convince the Singaporean crowd that they are indeed Singaporeans.

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There were moments in the musical which showed some promise (and gave me hope that they can salvage the show so that I can applaud for them at the end). One such scene was when the man in white climbed and stood at the top of a two storey ladder. But a few words, some unimpressive singing, and that was it. One of the only few interesting scenes, it was haphazardly portrayed. Their avoidance in tackling political scenes by its horns was also their undoing (they couldn’t explicitly portray Mr Lee since they couldn’t get the rights and permission). My beef is, if you can’t get permission, meaning you also can’t portray the statesman in a way that will do him justice, why bring him into the picture at all?

Archival footage of the late Mr Lee and Tunku Abdul Rahman were screened midway to provide exposition and to give the audiences some bearing of the sentiments during the separation period. But for the musical who’s clearly unclear about their direction, screening those footage did not compliment the two hour long musical. Instead, it made the creative team look extremely lazy for using the footage instead of reenacting their own scenes.

For all the publicity generated on the print and digital media, the musical was a complete letdown and utter disappointment. Maybe you could say that I’m being biased since I am a Singaporean, but for a musical that sought to tell the Singapore story, Singapura: The Musical has missed the mark by more than a mile.

Singapura: The Musical is a titanic scaled production, grossly under-delivering for all that it has promised. But they played theirs cards right to premier in Singapore during her jubilee year. The sales will come, people will flock in by the hundreds to catch the performance. I can only hope that the shows’ creator and composer do some soul-searching, intensify their research into those historical moments and seriously rework the script, before bringing this to the international stage. The Singapore story is not as you have told. RW

Singapura: The Musical

Capitol Theatre (New theatre along Stamford Rd stretch)

Opens 19 May to 28 June 2015

Ticket Pricing: $65 – $175

Web Link: Singapura: The Musical

Photos: Google

Giveaway: Win Tickets to VISION, Live Illusion-Theatre Spectacle

Stand a chance to win a pair of tickets for you and your buddy to catch VISION, Asia’s largest live illusion-theatre show.

Remember the good ol’ days when you were easily bewildered and charmed by the sawing somebody into half’, disappearing rabbits, doves that appear out of nowhere, mindblowing card stunts, or your uncle’s coin-eating ‘magic’ trick?

Those were the days when we were young and naive to think that those tricks were ‘magical’ and every bit real. Today, words like ‘magic’ or ‘magicians’ had made way for ‘illusions’ and ‘illusionists’. Maybe illusions don’t excite us as much as before, but there’s still something special about watching a live illusion performance unfold right before your own eyes.

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From 3-12 July, come experience VISION, the exciting world of illusion­‐theatre performed by Singapore’s only professional illusionist duo, Lawrence and Priscilla Khong. Returning to Esplanade Theatre after a successful 2011 debut held at the same venue, the Gateway Entertainment’s 2015 production presents a plethora of brand-new illusions which promises an ‘unmasked’ view for the audience.

The ‘illusionary-drama’ plot centres around Priscilla’s ‘domain’, an alternate dimension in the depths of fantasy and magic-filled subconscious, where she uses her powers for selfish reasons which include capturing her own father. It’s tough to be a illusionist these days. “Perform illusion also must have storyline sia!” Sorry my Singaporean persona can’t resist.

It is mentioned that an impressive crew of people are part of this year’s production, but what got my attention was Don Wayne who co-developed the illusions with the Khongs. Wayne was the principle magic creator for illusionist, David Copperfield (THAT guy who walked through the Great Wall of China, and made the Statue of Liberty disappear).

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Yet that does not take away the glimmer from the father-daughter themselves. Lawrence and Priscilla were named Asia’s First Elite Diamond Award Recipients, an award equivalent to the Oscars in the world of magic, and held a sold-out tour in China just last year.

Be dazzled by brand new illusions, tighter storyline, world class choreography, cutting edge sets and stunning backdrops. Sit back and enjoy, VISION promises to be one magical extravaganza.

Giveaway:

I would like to give you and your buddy a pair of tickets to catch VISION the illusion-theatre show, Live! All you have to do is follow one of two (or both) instructions below to participate in the giveaway.

1. Instagram

  • Like and repost my ‘VISION Giveaway’ Instagram post
  • Tag @reuelwrites
  • Tag the person whom you want to bring with you to the show
  • Make sure to set your account to public

2. Facebook

  • Like and share my ‘VISION Giveaway’ Facebook post
  • Tag the person whom you want to bring with you to the show
  • Make sure to set your account to public

Perform one task for one chance, perform both tasks for two chances! 

Giveaway closes at 8pm Thursday, 18 June 2015. A random name generator will be used to pick the winner (name). Winner will be announced on Facebook and Instagram. This contest is open to all residing in Singapore.

Remember to set your account to public. The draw is strictly random (I’m not going to give the tickets to my father, my auntie or my cousin, hor). An online random name generator will be used to pick the winner by his or her (Facebook/Instagram) name.

See you at VISION! RW

VISION 2015

Esplanade Theatre

Opens 3 to 12 July 2015

Ticket Pricing: $28 – $118

Web Link: VISION 2015

Terms and conditions:

  1. Once selected, the winner will be announced, contacted and informed on how to retrieve the tickets. Once contacted, failure to respond within two days from time of contact will result in the winner forfeiting the tickets during which another winner will be announced.
  2. All decisions made by reuelwrites.com will be final.
  3. reuelwrites.com reserves the right to amend any or all parts of the giveaway, and/or modify these terms and conditions without prior notice. In case of any dispute arising out of or in connection with the giveaway, the decision of reuelwrites.com shall be final.

The Deep: A Whole New World Beyond Your Wildest Imagination

Bioluminescence, Gelatinous and Gigantic fang creatures? 10,000-year-old deep sea fauna? Satisfy your curiosity and get acquainted with a world you never knew existed at The Deep exhibition. 

The world just got bigger. For a long time, biologists have unanimously claimed that there is ‘no life’ at the bottom of the sea in the absence of light. Yet recent deep sea explorations has proved otherwise. Teeming with life in the seemingly barren abyss are bioluminescence sea creatures that glow in the dark, gelatinous transparent creatures, reefs and creatures that thrive at inhabitable volcanic vents and toxic methane seeps, in unimaginable diversity.

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According to the ArtScience Museum’s latest exhibition The Deep, the deep sea is the Earth’s largest reservoir of life, yet only 10 percent of the seafloor has been mapped out so far. This brings “We have only just scratched the surface” to a whole new level. The Deep opened to the public on the 6th of June. I went in there a ‘clean sheet’, armed with deep sea knowledge that was close to non-existent and boy was I blown away.

Featuring the largest collection of over 40 deep sea creatures and images of fauna captured for the first time, The Deep is the result of hours of research, hard work (and ‘pleading’ biologists from all over the world to give away some of their rarest specimens for public education) put together by exhibition curator, Claire Nouvian.

The exhibition is presented in a pitch-black environment thus emulating the absence of light in the deep sea, and organized into eight zones each revealing findings at different sea depths. The final zone is dedicated to Nouvian and her efforts to raise public awareness of the urgency to protect and preserve the fragile ecosystem of the deep sea.

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I was fortunate enough to join the curator tour conducted by the very passionate Nouvian. Curator tours are one of the best ways to appreciate and understand the minds of the curators behind the exhibition conceptualisation. Unlike space explorations, deep sea exploration only really took off in the 1960s, making this breakthrough exhibition even more exciting (they are discovering new species and learning new things every year!). It’s truly amazing how there is even life to begin with under such harsh and uninhabitable conditions, yet we find such unusual, frightening and stunningly beautiful creatures at the bottom of the seas.

Even though the 40 extremely rare specimens on display are taxidermied (difference in environment, temperature, pressure and oxygen levels make it impossible for them to surface in the surface), it still doesn’t take away the thrill to know that you are in such close proximity with creatures that exists some 4,000 metres below sea level.

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The Deep exhibition makes one marvel at how these deep sea creatures can survive in such extreme, pressure-filled conditions in absolute darkness. Beyond simply educating the public, the exhibition also seeks to reveal how we need to protect these deep sea creatures and their habitats. Towards the end of the tour, Nouvian reminded that highly endangered Bluefin tunas who were once undesirable bycatch (unintentionally caught marine species) are now served all over the world. When the tunas run out, nets will be dropped even deeper into the sea to bring in other marine species to the dinner tables. Question is, which bycatch will end up on the plate then?

All in all, the exhibition was a visual spectacle and I really respect Nouvian for her efforts to educate the public on the spectacular yet mysterious world within the deep oceans. I hope the photos below will intrigue you to visit the exhibition. Bring your kids, bring your friends, bring your spouse, bring your girlfriend or boyfriend. I promise you, you will be amazed. This is one exhibition you wouldn’t want to miss. RW

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The DeepThe Deep, Jelly Benthocodon sp., © 2002 MBARI

ArtScience Museum, MBS

Opens 6 June 2015

Ticket Pricing: $14 / $12 (Local – flash your IC and purchase at counter)

Web Link:

Writer’s Note: All rights belong to the photographer (me). Requests for commercial use of photos will not be entertained. For requests for editorial use, kindly email me at kairoscommsg@gmail.com. 

Bustling Chinatown

I had some time to kill last weekend while waiting for a friend at Chinatown. Chinatown is such a magical place. An Austrian runs the sausage bar, a Hongkonger runs the pastries stall, the elderly play chess everyday regardless of everything that’s happening around the world, the shop-help works hard to peddle his products to the tourists everyday. I just wanted to while my time away, but never expected Chinatown to be so interesting even for a local. There is so much activity happening in one place and everybody who comes wants to be part of it. Chinatown is run by locals and foreigners, attracts the old, the young, the Chinese Nationals and the local community, welcomes tourists of all countries with open arms. This is truly, Uniquely Singapore.

See the full gallery here.

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