“Occupation” review: love won in a time of loss

Checkpoint Theatre kicks off its 20th anniversary season with chamber readings of Occupation. The show follows Sarah (Isabella Chiam) a self-professed “charming bureaucrat” tasked with interviewing Mrs. Siraj (Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai), an elderly character heavily inspired by playwright Huzir Sulaiman’s grandmother. Sarah listens to Mrs. Siraj’s personal accounts of youth and romance under the Japanese Occupation. Mrs. Siraj recounts waving to her lover every night from her window and eventually getting married in 1944. It is a cloyingly sweet story, as Sarah points out that Mrs. Siraj’s occupation is “loving and being loved”, far from the expected tales of woe and suffering.

Occupation effectively teases out this uneasy tension between our expected notions of a Japanese-occupied Singapore versus a personal retelling. As PJ Thum writes:

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Voices uninterrupted: “Two Songs and a Story” review

We’re more than six months (days? years?) into the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore. Cancellations for arts and theatre performances started as early as in February, as countless performances and discussions have gone online.

Enter Two Songs and A Story, or more accurately, ten songs and five stories – the latest work by Checkpoint Theatre. The online video series comprises of five parts, told by five distinct voices (ants chua, Inch Chua, Jo Tan, Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, and weish). These pieces were written and composed during the Circuit Breaker period1, and it emits an earnest sense of creativity and attempts in meaning-making during isolation.

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“Eat Duck” review: putting on a show

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.

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“Still Life” review: life is but a dream

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.

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