There is a real sense of intimacy that is conjured from podcasts. When I listen to a podcast on my morning commute, the lone speaker’s voice in my ear in a crowded MRT carriage makes me feel connected with another human being (hello, Michael Barbaro.) This is what Café Sarajevo effectively evokes – not just visually, as “ON AIR” in red capital letters are displayed behind cast members Mariel Marshall, Peter Musante, Lucy Simic and Stephen O’Connell. But also aurally – as every audience member dons headsets, the performance begins with Marshall’s gentle singing voice. Her song lulls us in, the audience is listening. Café Sarajevo begins.
Aptly falling under this year’s M1 Fringe theme of “My Country My People”, Oliver Chong’s Contemplating Kopitiam and Kampong Wa’ Hassan explores what forms a Singapore heritage – its places. From kopitiams to the last kampong in Singapore, the play tackles the changing landscapes of Singapore: a convergence of familiarity, temporality, and nostalgia.
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.
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.