March 28, 2015


Every school is a good school

Checkpoint Theatre is delighted to open its 2015 season with Normal, a powerful new play from Faith Ng. Directed by Claire Wong, Normal will run from 9 April to 19 April 2015 at the Drama Centre Black Box, National Library Level 5.

Secondary 5 Normal Academic students Ashley and Daphne struggle to manage self-imposed standards, society’s demands, and parental expectations. These childhood friends turn to each other to figure out who they are and where they are going. The arrival of new teacher Sarah Hew becomes a beacon of hope. But will she be able to find a way to help them? 

Drawing from her experience with the Normal Academic system, acclaimed playwright Faith Ng lays bare the complex tensions boiling beneath even the most ‘normal’ of schools in this honest and thought-provoking account of students who have fallen through the cracks.

Led by Oon Shu An, Noorlinah Mohamed, and Zee Wong, the cast features fifth-year SOTA students Claire Chung and Audrey Teong in their professional debut, Lim Shi-An, and Karen Tan. Normal will also be supported by an ensemble chorus of 10 actors. 

Performance/Ticketing Details
Dates/Times: Thu 09 Apr – Sun 19 Apr 2015
                        8pm (Tue to Sat); 3pm matinee (Sat & Sun)
Venue:            Drama Centre Black Box, National Library Level 5
Duration:       1 hr 30 min without intermission
Ticket Price:  $38 (excludes SISTIC booking fee)
Ticketing Agent: SISTIC – or Hotline 6348 5555

OCBC Arts Platinum Card – 15% off;
OCBC Cards and PAssion Card – 10% off;
Students, Senior Citizens, and NSF – 10% off; and
Group Bookings (20 tickets or more) – 20% off.

ADV: Hatch Theatrics presents Hawa

Hawa’ By Johnny Jon Jon Directed By Faizal Abdullah 
Starring Isabella Chiam, Saiful Amri & Al-Matin Yatim

Friday 24 April 2015 8pm
Saturday 25 April 2015 3pm / 8pm 
$24 / $18 (concession) The Substation Theatre

To get tickets, visit

Siti, a recent convert to Islam is suddenly tasked with overseeing the funeral arrangements of her close friend and companion. However, what was supposed to be a simple task of overseeing her companion’s final journey sets Siti off on a journey of self-discovery when Siti is forced to confront the dominant paradigms that exist in society. (In Malay and English with surtitles)

About Hatch Theatrics 
Hatch Theatrics is a collective of young and multi-hyphenated theatre makers. Hatch aims to rediscover, reinvent and revitalize Singapore’s contemporary theatre. ‘Hawa’ will be Hatch’s fifth production and the first time collaborating with Isabella Chiam, Saiful Amri & Al-Matin.

Alison's sidenote:
I went for a dramatised reading of Hawa a few weeks back, and I must say, the issues that are being investigated in Hawa are fresh and pertinent. I can't reveal much, so come down and have a look for yourself!

March 7, 2015

Titoudao by Toy Factory Productions

Written and directed by Goh Boon Teck

A truly wayang piece, in the good way of course!

I am happy that I am fluent in English, Mandarin and Hokkien. Because a firm knowledge of these three languages/dialect provided a thorough understanding (and hence appreciation) of this wonderful production.

As usual, Goh Boon Teck has impressed me deeply with his work, though I regret having missed the previous runs of this show. One particular scene stuck a chord deep within me. The sequential light fading out on each dressing table after the line "Wayang dies with my generation" was symbolic, beautiful and to say the least well crafted. The fly-bar removal of the wayang costumes at the end of the show symbolising the fall of this art in recent generations was sufficiently subtle, but yet elegantly  obvious enough for any audience member to understand.

The concurrent weaving of the wayang Titoudao and biography of Mdm Oon Ah Chiam was impeccably presented as well. It is not easy to progress two story arcs simultaneously while retaining the interest of the audience. I particularly loved how Goh Boon Teck took liberties with plot progression in Mdm Oon's story, fast forwarding between each scenes to speed up development. This helped to keep up the pace of the story - preventing me from being distracted.

I am no expert in Hokkien opera, but I must admit the lyrical Hokkien lines were beautiful. Some actors were heads and shoulders over the others in the delivery of Hokkien songs. For example, Jo Tan was particularly muffled in her Hokkien solo as the Emperor (?Mic problem). However, Timothy Wan and Trev Neo were fantastic in their operatic parts.

In the modern story arc, Jo Tan - in her usual manner - shone brightly again. Always the show stealer. Spot-on comedic timing with adorable attractive appealing endearing captivating actions. It is very hard not to focus on her when she is acting. Rei Poh was much much much more attractive in his Ah Hock role than the somewhat (intended I guess) revolting Teng Lay Kiao.

Audrey Luo took on the title role of Titoudao and Mdm Oon Ah Chiam. I have seen Audrey act for a long long time and I must say that this has been one of her best works. This production has showcased her singing, dancing, stage movements very well. She took on roles from kids to teenage to young mother, transiting into Mdm Oon. On the parallel arc, she had a boyish loyal servant, a character that required a lot of physical work on stage. It was really a job well done.

This review cannot be complete without giving credits to the wonderful costume design (wow) and lighting/sound/music arrangement. These were subtle contributions that made the show the earnest, unpretentious storytelling that it was meant to be. This is really my favourite kind of show, a simple story telling, about a person who matters. No abstract work, just a simple desire to tell a story, to tell a message.

I would recommend Titoudao.

Justwatchlah score: 4/5

P.s. 杜仲猪肝汤,以形补形 for kidney is kinda factually wrong. Normally I refrain from spotting medical errors but... there is not even any "kidney" 杜仲猪肝汤 to 以形补形 haha

March 1, 2015

和妈妈中国漫游 糊涂戏班

编剧:张飞帆 导演:陈文刚

Photos Courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay


我觉得这演出,太狡猾了。用一个这么激奋人心的 真实事件作为故事背景,又再一家团员的过年时上演,配上了非常精细的制作过程,怎么可能不好看?

I must confess that I always have a soft spot for mother-themed scripts. However, unlike the usual, "Travel with Mum" was not centred around the mother. Instead, it was really about the son and the lengths (physical and emotional) he went to fulfill her wish (thereby fulfilling his own). The biggest beauty of the whole production (I apologise first to the production team) was exactly this spirit of the son (Min). Not to say that the production team did not need to do a good job to bring out this spirit, but when you have a story whose core is so pure and intent, it is difficult not to be pulled naturally into it.

There are many shows about the sacrifices Mothers do for their children. This is one of the first shows (that I know) that centred around the converse. What a child would do for his mother. Normally (regrettable) this is less believable than the former - but hey, since this show was based on a real story, we have no choice but to believe right?

The most attractive thing in the play had to be the interactions between the mother and son. The mask provided such good masquerade for the two actors playing twice/triple their ages. Although we could only see their lower face, the actors' precise body language never made me doubt that the characters were a day younger than what they intended to be.

There were many clever scripting devices soon. The most memorable being the sand. During the hail storm, the other actors relentlessly threw sand at the central two characters. During the throwing, it added very well to the tension of the scene. When it ended, the sand covered stage provided a visual reminder of the devastating aftermath of a hail storm. Even beyond the scene, the 一步一脚印 notion of the journey was subtly elucidated when every step each actor took left a foot print on stage.

Although a cliche point, I fully understood the 老掉牙的一句话:终点并不重要,有了过程,我的心里早已到了西藏。This point was particularly well brought out because beyond a point, I reached the realization that it really was not about the end point (or if she reaches the destination or not). Instead, 一路上的所见所闻,波折困难,奇闻怪讯,都已经充实了这母子俩的“慢”游。也可能因为这样,我总觉得英文剧名“Travel with Mum”有点丢失了这漫游的意境。用journey又仿佛太过白面。到底应该取什么英文剧名呢?恕我还没想到:)

也就是因为过程重于终点,so when the mother passed away in the end, there was no overwhelming sadness. Because we know that the journey that the mother-son have taken has made it worthwhile for her. That her passing away was not a form of departure but rather, an indication of completion.

若要说欠佳的地方,就是换场的时间。整个故事就其实是这两个人跟时间(妈妈的所剩时间 )的赛跑。但换场拖了久了点,我的心也跟着急了点。然后,我觉得中间的过渡歌曲,有些蛮贴切。不过有些真的比较冗长。

Well, I am now busy online in a separate window reading about 王一民. Another year where a Huayi left a deep impression in my heart.

Justwatchlah score: 4.5/5

February 22, 2015

What is Sex? by Edward Lam Dance Theatre (Huayi 2015)

Writen and directed by Edward Lam
Produced by Edward Lam Dance Theatre

Photos Courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

I should first start by saying that if you are not good in Chinese language/or have no appreciation of 红楼梦, you will probably be very bewildered by this show. In fact, in a self-mockery tone, the playwright asks the audience if they had eaten dinner in the very beginning of the play. Because if not, it would probably not be a nice feeling to watch a play which they can't understand on a hungry stomach.

In my opinion, a play is well done if it makes me continue to ruminate about the content after leaving the theatre, especially for this show, I find myself breaking out my old 红楼梦 text and seeing the references from the play. The fact that I am interested enough on this pursuit at 12.30 am speaks volume of the play.

As written in the programme booklet, What is Sex? is not meant to be a staging of 红楼梦. And I liked that. I found that particularly intriguing. Edward Lam has selected scenes from the Chinese classic and used them as a backdrop to portray seemingly (i emphasise, seemingly) irrelevant scenes from modern life. I was initially very perplexed by this anachronistic presentation (Credit card? with Xifeng and Pinger?) but by scene three or four, it suddenly came to me the beauty of Edward Lam's arrangement. While the actual context/dialogue of the scene from 红楼梦 and What is Sex may not be coherent, this juxtaposition of 红楼梦 and What is Sex actually drew parallels between the two. This underscores what Edward Lam wrote in the programme, despite three centuries, themes/stories of Dream of the Red Chamber still apply today. Maybe just the tools are different today (you can use electric iron to scald a 'maid/slave') but these acts remain unchanged in their intent across time.

The choice of scenes were also captivating. There were a myriad of scenes. I was particularly fond of a few. Scene 3: Mayhem in School - we saw the lively male ensemble effectively creating a teenage-level school scene, without overacting and degenerating it into a childish cat fight. 这一点,我觉得导演拿捏的很好。既可以带出少年学生的调皮,互动,更清楚为以众欺小做了一副写真。

I guess in the spirit of the show, I shall type random things in Chinese too: 没有人听,我就不告解,我就没有犯罪了。第四场的这一句话,让我留下了深刻的印象。很多人也是这样吧,做错了事,就企图把它给埋在脑海深处,也不跟任何人说。没有人听,不提起,就好比真的没有做过一样。

Scene 14 was possibly my favourite scene. Getting two guys acting as Bao Yu and Dai Yu, and to develop a love scene between them, runs the high risk of becoming campy and revolting. But it wasn't. It was handled impeccably well by the two actors and the relationship between this pair of lovers were rightly accentuated, without incurring any slapstick laughter (which would have spoilt the scene). I thought Edward Lam did a really good job on this scene, and the strategic placing of it at Scene 14 really helped to wrap the show up nicely towards the end.

Although I recognise some actors' names from previous Huayi (or other rains like Lei Yu), I regret to say that although the actors were generally competent as a group, I couldn't distinguish them individually (I suppose that was the director's choice when he had them playing some many roles within a scene). Not that it's a bad thing, just that I can't praise any one particularly good. But in general, they all were. The men were impressive.
Beyond the stories and actors, I thought the motion picture effects were picturesque and well done. I particularly liked the shattered mirror effect, cash turning into paper and the snowing effect at the end. It was classy and non ostentatious.

Really, this show has been inspiring in more than one way. 看了这戏,中文也提升了两三分。回家后到了网上,还Google了王维的诗。“渡头余落日,墟里上孤烟。”,“大漠孤烟直,长河落日圆”确实写的很美;很怪,但就如剧中所言,很美。

I think in conclusion, I was really happy that I managed to catch this year's Hua yi. Watching religiously watched Huayi for many years (except last year because I was outfield), I daresay that shows in the Huayi festival do not disappoint. Would I recommend this show to everyone? I confidently say that its not for everyone. Without prior knowledge of 红楼梦 (contrary to what Edward Lam said), i think it would be difficult to appreciate the show. But if you know the story of 红楼梦, and you appreciate the beautifully written lines from 红楼梦 being used (relentlessly) in the play, you will probably enjoy the show as much as I did. Was 3.5 hours a bit too long? Perhaps. But to be restless once in a while was probably okay for this overall wonderful show. In my opinion that is.

Justwatchlah score: 4/5

February 15, 2015

Invasion by Bound Theatre

[on call tomorrow. need to sleep early]

I'm really not a big fan of physical theatre but I reckon that I can still recognize a good one when I see one. However, in Invasion, these physical theatre snippets served more as a distraction than anything else. The play had an interesting premise and I was intrigued (I rarely am these days) to watch how the story would develop. However i was interrupted by outbursts of deconstructed art, which frankly made me rather pek chek far too often.

I thought it was a refreshing idea to personify Singa, "bags down" beng and "move in" machik. In particularly I wanted to see more interactions between old familiar friendly Singa and the new dynamic duo. The anachronistic coexistence of the courtesy mascots old and new was, in my opinion, a very good platform for theatrical exploitation. But alas, it rarely progressed beyond a silly banter between the couldnt-be-more-stereotypical laughter-milking "Singaporean" characters. Unfortunately beng's hokkien English wasn't strong enough, making his characterization rather contrite. The machik did a slightly more appealing characterization, one of the not of often times when I bought the cross dressing idea. The taxi driver also had the same problem as bags down beng, also unable to pull off the typical married uncle role. This deficiency was further underscored when the script mentioned family and wife.. I found myself thinking... Really?

Going back to the script, I really had the playwright and director had an interesting concept in the background. This concept of an fungal (it was right?) epidemic and vaccination (I refrain from commenting about the medical fallacy involved here), Damian and his past. There was also a potentially nice romantic set up between Damian and his co-worker, potentially intriguing relationship between Damian and the "scientist", Damian and Singa, and potentially provocative one between Damian and his mother. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I think playwrights should focus more on plot and character development. I wanted to see a lot more between the characters, but didn't.. :(

One other sore point that I must point out was the blatant defiance towards logicality. Taxi driver sees man on roof, calls police and scientist picked up? (Which didn't serve any plot purpose too hmm) there were many such moments. Arghh

One thing I should mention however was the concept of mind reading. The quick swift scene changes between old house and tennis playing, and the abundance of tennis balls in successive numbers was very well done.

Aiyoh, I don't know if it's because most students in school are very much exposed to physical theatre during their drama classes, but the abundance of such artsy theatrical devices in aspiring theatre practitioners is shocking. In fact, most professional theatre groups shuns themselves away from this difficult to satisfy genre. I think young theatre practitioners should stick to good o' theatre and start without grandiose intentions. This is just my two cents worth, probably members of the production team will disagree with me.

I'm really curious to read the original script though.

February 2, 2015

KUMAR Stands Up for Singapore by Dream Academy

Does Singapore have a SUPERHERO standing up for us?  You bet your bottom CPF dollar we do!  Just like our Singapore Flag has 5 Stars, our Singapore Champion’s name has 5 letters : K.U.M.A.R!!!!

As Uniquely Singapore as Your Singapore can get, KUMAR spends April 2015 being our STB …
Singapore’s Top Bapok – STANDING UP FOR SINGAPORE!  Celebrating Singapore’s journey from a swampy island of a few orang lauts to today’s bustling metropolis of millions.   He’ll make you roar with laughter as he tackles the red, the white, the stars and, of course, his Crescent Moon.  Come laugh with KUMAR as you discover the true meaning of mari kita!

KUMAR Stands Up for Singapore (R18)
22 – 26 April 2015
Esplanade Theatre
Directed by Selena Tan