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.

STF2016 My Mother Buys Condoms by W!LD RICE pic 1

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.

STF2016 My Mother Buys Condoms by W!LD RICE pic 6

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.

Singapore Theatre Festival: 8 Original Plays on Singapore’s Hot-button Issues

Let’s talk about race, religion, politics, sex and gender identity, shall we? 

This is Singapore. We are forward-looking in many aspects and we rank among the best cities in the world to live in. Yet we can also be viewed as ‘backward’ as a people. Developed and modern as we are, we approach (divisive) issues surrounding race, religion, politics, sex and gender identity either with fear or with prejudices through our own tinted lens. But it doesn’t have to be – and that is where art comes into the picture.

Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” If there is one theatre company in Singapore who is capable of exploring today’s hot-button topics through theatre, it can only be W!LD RICE!

W!LD RICE’s fifth Singapore Theatre Festival will take place in various locations in LASALLE College of the Arts from 30 June to 24 July. The annual festival is a month-long event dedicated to celebrating new local writing. Featuring the work of 9 Playwrights, 8 Directors and 4 Companies, the 8 new plays tell stories of contemporary Singapore and give voice to people from all walks of life: from the young and the old, to minorities and the marginalised, including members of the LGBT, Teochew and motorbiking communities.

Hilarious, witty and thought-provoking all at once, the plays “challenge and encourage us to imagine possibilities beyond our own biases and prejudices, giving us clues as to how we can live with one another”, said STF artistic director and W!LD RICE head honcho Ivan Heng.

I am particularly looking forward to Rodney Oliveiro’s Geylang that sheds light on Singapore’s most colourful and notorious district, and Helmi Yusof’s romantic comedy My Mother Buys Condoms that puts a cheeky spin on active ageing. Mark Ng’s Let’s Get Back Together uses the heartfelt testimony of LGBT individuals in Singapore to provide eye-opening insights into their trials and tribulations, while Alfian Sa’at’s GRC (Geng Rebut Cabinet) unearths some uncomfortable truths in a topsy-turvy political landscape in which Malays form the majority of the population.

Tickets are already available on SISTIC with 7 out of 8 plays priced at $40 or lower. Festival passes and concession tickets are also available. Be sure to buy your tickets early to avoid disappointment! See below for a brief description of the 8 plays featured during the festival. RW

1. HOTEL by W!LD RICE

Venue: The Singapore Airlines Theatre
Show Dates: 30 June – 24 July 2016
Ticket Prices: $80, $100 (click here to purchase tickets)

A hotel in Singapore is opened at the turn of the century, when the island is still a jewel in the British Crown. As Singapore morphs from British colony to Malaysian state to sovereign nation, its denizens experience profound and dramatic changes. We meet Indian mutineers, Cantonese nannies, Malay film stars, Japanese soldiers, transgender sex workers, wedding guests and suspected terrorists. They live out pivotal moments in their personal lives, even as empires die and new ones are born from their ashes.

A multi-generational epic that spans a century and unfolds in nine languages over five hours, HOTEL explores the notions of empire, nationhood, migration and identity against the backdrop of a shrinking world. Unanimously acclaimed as an instant classic and a five-star experience following its sold-out premiere at the 2015 Singapore International Festival of Arts, HOTEL is a ground-breaking theatrical event that highlights the eclectic energies born from the collisions between old and new, East and West, and tradition and modernity.

HOTEL was commissioned by the Singapore International Festival of Arts and produced in partnership with W!LD RICE. A single ticket permits entry to Part 1 (1915 – 1965) and Part 2 (1975 – 2015).

 

2. GEYLANG by W!LD RICE

Venue: Flexible Performance Space
Show Dates: 30 June – 3 July 2016
Ticket Price: $35 (click here to purchase tickets)

Step into the neon-lit lorongs of Geylang, where a happy ending is not what you think it is. In this wicked interplay of four stories, meet those who have lived, loved and lost in Geylang. A pair of star-crossed lovers defy the river and cultures that separate them. Mediums and mamasans prey on lost souls. A single mother struggles to keep up with the relentless march of progress. A gang leader is swept up in a maelstrom of drug-fuelled violence. A civil servant falls under the heady spell of nostalgia as an iconic hawker stall is forced to relocate – or close down for good.

A potent, exhilarating brew of history and fiction,Geylang looks for truth in the past, present and future of Singapore’s most colourful district. Sexy, funny and poignant, Geylang is an electrifying, thought-provoking showcase of new Singapore voices and talent. GEYLANG was created in collaboration with the third cohort of young & W!LD (2014-2015), W!LD RICE’s youth development division.

 

3. Double-Bill:
RIDERS KNOW WHEN IT’S GONNA RAIN by W!LD RICE
HAWA by Hatch Theatrics

Venue: Creative Cube
Show Dates: 30 June – 3 July 2016
Ticket Price: $35 (click here to purchase tickets)

Riders Know When It’s Gonna Rain is a coming-of-age story of friendship that blossoms in the little-known, frequently misunderstood mat moto subculture in Singapore. It captures the bright, reckless spirit of youth: from the desire to rebel and an addiction to danger, to the fierce loyalty that springs up between kindred spirits. When their adventures take an unexpected detour, the four childhood friends learn that the road to adulthood can be bumpy and treacherous.

Written with an insider’s intimate understanding of the culture and lingo of Singapore’s motorbiking community, Nessa Anwar’s tough, tender play is an affecting portrait of youths living in the fast lane. RIDERS KNOW WHEN IT’S GONNA RAIN was first commissioned for and performed at the 2015 Singapore Writers Festival, as part of Checkpoint Theatre’s ‘What I Love About You Is Your Attitude Problem’.

 

4. LET’S GET BACK TOGETHER by Red Pill Productions

Venue: Flexible Performance Space
Show Dates: 7 – 10 July 2016
Ticket Price: $35 (click here to purchase tickets)

What is it like to grow up different in a country where laws, morality and the media dictate what is normal? Who gets to determine what constitutes harassment and discrimination against minorities? Is Singapore society really as conservative as we’re often told it is? Can this country truly be a home for everyone, regardless of race, language, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity?

Based on frank, funny and sometimes fabulous interviews conducted with over 50 brave and inspiring individuals, Let’s Get Back Together is an original testimonial theatre piece exploring the realities that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face on a daily basis in Singapore. Even as the rest of the world begins to wake up to the idea that LGBT rights are human rights, Let’s Get Back Together sheds light on the trials and triumphs of these individuals as they grapple with issues of faith, identity and acceptance.

 

5. GRANDMOTHER TONGUE by W!LD RICE

Venue: Creative Cube
Show Dates: 7 – 10 July 2016
Ticket Price: $35 (click here to purchase tickets)

In a Singapore where dialects have been losing relevance for generations, Grandmother Tongue traces a young man’s struggle to connect with his 84-year-old Teochew-speaking grandmother. He teaches her to use a mobile phone. He helps her buy her favourite brand of soya sauce. He visits her in hospital after a fall. Along the way, he begins to understand just what it means to spend decades in linguistic and cultural exile.
Inspired by Kuo Pao Kun’s seminal Mama Looking For Her Cat, Thomas Lim’s funny, insightful play examines the social costs of our mother-tongue language policy and the erasure of dialects in today’s Singapore. In ways both humorous and heartbreaking, Grandmother Tongue explores how our identities are bound up with the languages that we use and the ones that we lose.

 

6. 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.

7. 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?