Chinese wakes in Singapore are one of the best ways to show ‘filial piety’. Held at HDB void decks, wakes are an intimate event on public display, some might say to “put on a show”. Checkpoint Theatre’s Eat Duck cleverly addresses this: Jerry (Hang Qian Chou) calls for a seven-day wake after their 72-year-old mother passes away but his siblings quarrel over the high cost. Jerry insists that this is to pay respect to their mother, so a seven-day wake begins. The sound of Chinese cymbals boom and a backdrop of Chinese idioms on paper scrolls appear. The show, Eat Duck, is well…being put on.
If you can’t hear what I’m trying to say
If you can’t read from the same page
Pangdemonium’s This Is What Happens To Pretty Girls opens with a glimpse of a dance floor. With strobe lights and loud music, dance floors are typically ripe with grimy behaviour, bodies drenched with sweat and alcohol. It is a brief scene, but it is a space that most are familiar with, and a space that This Is What Happens… tries to replicate and expand into domestic and work scenes.
This Is What Happens… attempts to show that these spaces are at times a breeding ground for sexual harassment and abuse, especially as Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is featured at least twice in the first half. The play turns the song on its head: blurred lines no longer alludes to a “she drives me crazy saying no when I know she wants it” stance, but more on the many confusing implications of what consent really means. Yes means yes, but what if you didn’t mean it? What if you change your mind? Consent is not simple because sex, dating and relationships are not simple. With a compelling narrative and a strong ensemble cast, This Is What Happens… successfully encapsulates these grey areas, painting a clear picture of a murky territory.
Spoiler Alert: This review contains spoilers for The Mysterious Lai Teck, which will run from 17 to 19 May at the Singapore International Festival of Arts.
“I am the shadow of Ho Chi Minh,” a voice states. It starts as a whisper, before being repeated later as a fast, sharp claim. This narrating voice recounts his origin story: about growing up in his home country of Vietnam, vaguely alluding to being from the same birthplace as Ho Chi Minh – as though to solidify his ties with communism, great leadership and power. Yet, he later admits he is not from the same region, only nearby. This voice, that openly lies, belongs to a man known as Lai Teck, the leader of the Malayan Communist Party, and a triple agent working with the French, British and Japanese secret service.
The first thing you notice about Still Life is its set. A massive bird’s nest structure hangs from the ceiling, alongside faux wooden beams and matte black pendant lamps. Nude sketches and paintings are donned on all walls. Petrina Dawn Tan’s set feels cosy, and even lived-in, especially with the mishmash of seats that circle the stage: rattan chairs, sofas, high stools, rugs and more.
The next thing you notice about Still Life is Dana Lam herself. Sporting cropped hair and clad entirely in black, Dana exhibits a no-nonsense spunk. She shows a careful consideration with her words, and a fluid freehand style with her live artistic sketches. Still Life is centered around Dana, and her life is anything but still.