In the Living Room: Year in Reviews 2018

I’ve been invited to co-chair Year In Reviews coming up this Tuesday, Dec 4th! Instead of a strict panel session, this is an open dialogue event where we hold casual conversations about Singapore theatre this year. Here’s how it will work:

Reviewers from Centre 42’s Citizens’ Reviews programme and arts website ArtsEquator will begin the evening by sharing some of their observations, based on the shows that they watched and wrote about this year. You can then pick a topic and engage the reviewers in small-group discussions. Year in Reviews is an opportunity to reflect on the performances you watched, as well as the wider local theatre landscape today.

More details in their Facebook event page. It’s FREE so please come and take part in this exciting conversation!

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This month’s specials – link roundup #3

From time to time, I round up some things that have caught my eye:

Why why “MAMMA MIA!”

Mammia mia! Why do certain reviews of MAMMA MIA! contain snippets that sound similar to a glitzy press release? A “wild and splashing summer island party complete with…super catchy tunes we couldn’t help but sing along to.” Well, yes…of course?

Yet, MAMMA MIA! does beget such superficial responses. There is nothing wrong with flamboyant numbers and extravagant costumes. Watching big musicals is fun! But Chiquitita, you and I know, musicals can aspire to be more than just light entertainment. The Lion King explores familial love and Wicked! tackles female friendships. MAMMA MIA! has ABBA songs that er, looks at both? To its benefit, MAMMA MIA! does take small strides in poking fun at sexism, with the female-led “Does Your Mother Know” sounding less predatory. But perhaps it is too much to ask for a flashy musical to dismantle the patriarchy.

It is impossible to ignore what MAMMA MIA! really is: a musical medley of ABBA hits, with a semblance of a plot somewhere. But just having your mum sing along to “Waterloo” with fellow aunties is worth the ticket price itself. The musical truly is fun for the whole family.

This review is based on the performance on 17 November 2018. Mamma Mia! ran from 3-18 November at Marina Bay Sands Theatre.

“The Reunification of Two Koreas” review: Love will tear us apart, again

This play’s title is misleading. There are no dramatisations of wartime history; no political assertions of any sort. The only reference to the play’s title is minor, but it is, of course, about love.

The Reunification of Two Koreas comprises of twenty short scenes that explores love. The scenes are disparate but love pulses through the characters’ veins: from an unfolding wedding drama to a sex worker haggling for money. All these individuals are bound by a sad, painful love, that kind of love that hurts. It is called a crush for a reason. The play successfully evokes the reality of love that torments and teases, that both embraces you and stamps on your heart. Admittedly at times, the 2.5 hour runtime does feel long, particularly when some scenes are less effective than others (there are only so many variations of how a partner can leave you). Yet, the cast is enthralling, particularly Timothy Ng as a bumbling groomsman and Umi Kalthum Ismail as a discouraging girlfriend. The Reunification of Two Koreas explores how love breathes life—or in particular, death—into relationships. The play’s disjointed narrative can be erratic, but love undoubtedly binds these stories together. The characters are doomed to be (or not to be) together forever.

This review is based on the performance on 9 November 2018. Part of TheatreWorks’ Because I Love You season, The Reunification of Two Koreas ran from 1-11 November at TheatreWorks.