[Listing] The Emperor’s New Clothes by W!ld Rice

Emperor's New Clothes

Once upon a time, in a kingdom not so far away, ruled a vain and pompous Emperor, who was crazy about his clothes, himself and little else. So obsessed with fashion was he that he decreed that the 50th anniversary of his reign be celebrated with the most extravagant National Dress Parade of all time. But, as he primped and preened, he neglected his citizens, who could only get his attention by complimenting him on his appearance.

One day, two cheeky tailors decide to teach him a lesson. Presenting the Emperor with an eye-popping ensemble literally woven out of thin air, they convince him that only the smartest and most competent people in the land can see it.

What can be done to stop the nation’s biggest wardrobe malfunction? Why won’t the Emperor’s courtiers and the aristocracy speak up? Is there anyone who’s brave enough to tell the naked truth?

This holiday season, W!ld Rice puts a Singaporean spin on Hans Christian Andersen’s timeless tale about the ultimate fashion victim. Directed by Pam Oei, The Emperor’s New Clothes is a brand new musical with a razor-sharp script by Joel Tan and a sparkling score by Julian Wong. Its stellar cast includes Lim Kay Siu as the Emperor, Benjamin Kheng of The Sam Willows, Singapore Idol’s Sezairi Sazali and Siti Khalijah Zainal—all playing musical instruments live on stage!

Fun and laughter never go out of fashion. Don’t miss the most hilarious, heartwarming musical of the holiday season!

Catch The Emperor’s New Clothes from 20 November – 12 December at the Drama Centre Theatre. For ticketing information, please visit Sistic.

[Quick Theatre Review] Six Characters Questioning the Premise of Theatre

Six characters

Six Characters In Search of an Author

Théâtre de la Ville

10 September 2015

Victoria Theatre

10–12 September 2015

In response to naturalistic theatre, Valerii Briusov writes:

“There is no fixed boundary between the real world and the imaginary world, between ‘dreaming’ and ‘waking,’ ‘life’ and ‘fantasy.’ What we commonly consider imaginary may be the highest reality of the world, and the reality acknowledged by all may be the most frightful delirium.”

While Pirandello may not be considered a symbolist, his play is Briusov’s comments made flesh. In the midst of rehearsing “The Rules of the Game,” six characters belonging to an unfinished story appear in the rehearsal room and the director is asked to stage their tragedy. What unfolds is an overwhelming, frustrating, yet utterly intriguing piece which challenges the premises of what theatre purports to do.

Pirandello hits the sweet spot between developing the philosophical dialectic without drowning the audience as there is enough action to keep us in our seats. Despite the seeming chaos on stage, there is definitely a method to the madness as director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota manages to encapsulate it within a minimal landscape of a rehearsal room.

The audience was treated to a wonderful performance by the cast with the actors playing the actors (it’s confusing, I know) being mere walk-on players and yet having enough of a presence to justify them being in the play. The actors playing the characters

Throughout the course of our writing careers, us critics would often pronounce what is considered good theatre and what it is not. If I were asked to do so now, I would – like the character of the “The Father-” unleash a slew of pseudo-philosophical gibberish. My only recourse is to rely on my intuitions which says that this production is definitely one of them.

[Quick Dance Review] Lord of the Looks

n.b. There are times when I am quite busy and would not be able to write a full review of the shows that I have watched. Quick reviews are meant to file my main impressions of a certain show.  

Lord of the Dance

Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games

Michael Flatley

4 September 2015

Grand Theatre, Marina Bay Sands

3–6 September 2015

It should be called Lord of the Looks. Dancers are wonderful but there’s something odd with everyone being absolutely good looking. It’s exactly the same format as Flatley’s Feet of Flames and Lord of the Dance. Only minor tweaks were made to the choreography and new songs were added.

Those familiar with Flatley’s work will be absolutely disappointed as the way he markets the show is as if it’s a completely new show. What a horrible way to end a glittering career.

Surely he can look to various stories from America (where he was born) or Ireland (where his family comes from) to come up with something wonderful. What a waste of his talents.

Go if you are completely unfamiliar with Flatley’s work or are willing to blow your cash just to look at eye candies for a bit.

[Listing] The Fleeting Moment by Raw Moves

raw moves the fleeting moment

Italy meets Singapore in Raw Move’s latest contemporary dance production, The Fleeting Moment.

Italian choreographer Teresa Ranieri, who has worked widely throughout Europe, will be in Singapore for a 6-week residence with Raw moves to collaborate on a new creation that explores the meaning of dance and life.

Ranieri’s concept is inspired by a quote from Merce Cunningham: “…dance gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”

Through a collaborative creative process, Ranieri’s exploration of ephemerality seeks to direct the audience to, as she puts it, “observe closely this complex  mechanism of surrendering, non-acceptance and maybe get a step further in the art of mastering the challenges of life. Or simply witness a poetic act.”

Ranieri’s The Fleeting moment journeys into the recesses of our emotion and mental landscapes in search of meaning: The meaning of our daily existence; the meaning of this moment that passes; the meaning of our lives. It promises a stimulating blend of styles and ideas set to provoke and challenge the way we look at dance and life.

Catch The Fleeting Moment from 5–7 November at Goodman Arts Centre, Black Box. For ticketing information, please visit  Peatix.

The Mad Chinaman Returns!


Having been involved with The LKY Musical and this year’s National Day Parade, Dick Lee decides to take a trip down memory lane by reviving a concert which charts his musical journey from his childhood in the 1960s to the release of his album, The Mad Chinaman, in 1989. This revival promises all of Lee’s well-known songs with an extended storyline and a bigger band.

In the midst of his preparations, Lee generously granted this email interview (his responses have been lightly edited).

For those who are unfamiliar with your earlier work, why present yourself as The Mad Chinaman?

The concert is based on my autobiography which traces my musical journey and explains how I ended up with that nickname. This also happens to be the title of my 1989 album that introduced me to the Asian market.

Will you be writing new songs for this upsized version?

I will be performing songs from my career, including a few cover versions of songs that inspired me.

Your career in Singapore really took off after your success in Japan. Do you think it’s easier for local musicians to gain recognition now without first making a name abroad?

I think being accepted abroad is a kind of validation, but it depends on the genre. For example, a Chinese pop act would not be popular amongst the non-Chinese in Singapore. It is still important to establish yourself in your home country, I think, before other countries can accept you.

What are some aspects of the local music industry that need improvement?

We always complain about lack of exposure and local media support, but to be fair, I think they give all they can give. Finally, it all boils down to the quality of the music. When that improves, the support grows naturally.

If you are given three words to describe the Singapore sound. What would they be?

Tropical. Asian. Bright.

What is one advice you would give to your younger self?

Be Fearless (I guess I was anyway). Then, be MORE fearless!

Are you working on any exciting projects that your fans can look forward to?

For the first time, I’ll be directing the fifth production of my 1988 musical, Beauty World (written with Michael Chiang), the second play in my family trilogy, and my first movie.


Catch Dick Lee: The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman Upsized on 3 September, 7:30pm at the Esplanade Concert Hall. For ticketing information, visit Sistic.

[Dance Review] Stunning Life Cycles


Goh Lay Kuan

14 August 2015

Drama Centre Theatre

13–15 August 2015

Ostensibly, Returning shows the life cycle of a school of salmon and the trials and tribulations they face. Artistically, I see a life cycle of a tree—drawing nutrients from the roots of tradition before bearing fruits that are expressive and confident.

The dance piece is divided into five segments with the first three segments portraying the salmon developing from an embryo to a smolt and the final two showing the salmon returning to the streams to lay eggs.

Choreographers Meenakshy Bhaskar, Jenny Neo, and Osman Abdul Hamid drew on the movement vocabulary of the Indian (Bharatanatyam), Chinese, and Malay dance traditions to chart the development stages of the salmon’s life cycle.

As the embryos become alevins, their movements are limited and they struggle to make sense of the environment. The structured and grounded Bharatanatyam movements , conceived by Bhaskar, lends a firm but quiet energy to the piece. The striking facial expressions and footwork of the dancers exudes the eagerness of the alevins that are full of potential.

Neo’s light and youthful Chinese dance choreography captures the energetic fry as they zip around, avoid predators, and pick up the necessarily survival skills. Despite the perilous situation, the dancers punctuate their quick movements with a momentary pose and let out a playful kiss—the fry call out to one another to ensure that they stay together.

The fry become fingerlings and the process of smoltification soon occurs. After this transition, the smolts emerge with a silvery coating. This appears to be a rite of passage and the Malay dance choreography by Osman Abdul Hamid celebrates the fulfilment of the rite. A sense of joy fills the air as the dancers sway gently and gracefully to the lush tones of the accordion.

Reaching maturation and confident of survival, the smolts navigates and overcome all sorts of obstacles with aplomb. This is mirrored by the dancers as they—gaining all the needed technique and strength through their traditional dance training—come together and showcase their versatility in Osman Abduls Hamid’s contemporary choreography. All of them are consummate dancers as the audience is treated to a sequence that is engaging and dramatic. The swirling blue rays of the intelligent lights, designed by Dorothy Png, evoke the tumultuous depths of the ocean which heightens the tension.

The final choreography by Low Ee Chiang continues the drama that culminates in all the dancers taking to the stage. Their synergy is palpable for the renewal of the next generation of salmon depends on them. In one striking moment, they all fall to the floor as the lights goes out. The meditative sound of the flute creeps in slowly as the dancers emerge from their foetal position. The process is consummated and life begins again.

Despite its structure, Returning does not feel segmented and kudos to Mdm Goh Lay Kuan (artistic director) for ensuring that all the choreographies coalesced into a cohesive whole.

The same commendation must go to Julian Wong (music director) for the same achievement with the music. In fact, the structure of the music complements the dance as well. In the first three segments, music from the Indian, Chinese, and Malay traditions take their respective centre stage and instruments that do not typically belong to the tradition serve as accompaniment. However, in the final two segments, composer Ho Wen Yang really brings out the best in all the instruments as they chorus as a wondrous whole.

For us—the younger generation—whatever is known of Mdm Goh’s legacy is probably through interviews and books. With this latest offering, she beckons us to relook at the artistic roots and the possibilities of dance with fresh eyes.

We cannot help but follow her on this journey of return.

Other Reviews

“‘Returning’ Delivers Visual Delights” by Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, Blouinartinfo

“Goh Lay Kuan’s ‘Returning’ is a Flawed Return to Traditional Dance Forms” by Nirmala Seshadari, Straits Times Life!

[Theatre Review] Not As Memorable As It Should Be


Proton Theatre

13 August 2015

Victoria Theatre

13–15 August 2015

“Actors on stage. Static sounds. Smell of electrical appliance overheating. Occasional flashing light. Cramped hospital ward—four beds. Various personal items of the patients are seen; well lived-in. Christmas tree. Patient sits in the auditorium as the nurse coaxes her back to the stage.”

These scattershot impressions that Dementia creates as one enters the theatre is unsettling. As the audience takes their seat, a plump man in a sweater—who we later find out to be the doctor—starts getting restless and exuberantly informs us that this is a hospital ward for dementia patients. His uncontrollable laughter underscores his introduction and one wonders whether he is actually a patient himself.

This sense of puzzlement is emblematic of the show.

Is Dementia literally about a rich man buying over the whole building, hurling what is left of a psychiatric ward into the streets, and converting it into a Hungarian equivalent of Babestation? Or is it a metaphor for the state of Hungarian society?

I could not make up my mind throughout the show but I later found out that it is meant to be both as indicated in the progamme booklet.

The ghostly remnant of the hospital ward is inspired by the closure of the National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Budapest (formerly known as Lipótmezei Psychiatric Hospital) in 2007. The government incurred the ire of critics as there was no consultation with healthcare professionals which made the restructuring programme appear as a blatant political move. An unjust move at the expense of the psychiatric patients who were left to fend for themselves as the extant hospitals could not accommodate all of them.

The deafening silence from the authorities as the building stands abandoned compelled director Kornél Mundruczó to stage Dementia and excavate the alternative voices in society that often go unheard.

Aside from the injustices, we ourselves are like the dementia patients—trapped in our own obsessions as we slowly forget about everything else. With the show being part of the Singapore International Festival of the Arts and its theme being Post-Empires, Dementia is a cautionary message not to fall into a state of post-remembrance.

With a heady mix of live music (played by the patients) and film projection of what goes on in the ward when the curtain falls, Dementia has elements of melodrama and dark comedy that is poised to leave a deep impression. It rarely lets you settle but keeps you on your toes.

Unfortunately, it does not.

While the social message is relevant to any society, the language barrier seems to blunt the immediacy of what the production is trying to evoke. As it is impossible to completely synchronise the English surtitles with the delivery of the Hungarian text, there seems to be an added distance between the audience and the performance.

Safe for the extraordinarily squeamish, the violence, blood, and nudity hardly adds to the shock value. More importantly, there is an uncomfortable asymmetry in the violence done to the women as most of them are sexually humiliated while only two of the male characters experience physical harm. This unnecessarily distracts one from the message of the play.

Despite certain dramaturgical flaws, the play rewards those who are willing to reach out some food for thought and perhaps a moment of clarity. A gift much needed in a demented society which even calculates whether the able-bodied is deserving of state support.  

Other Reviews

“Proton Theatre’s Dementia is a Little Ward of Horrors” by Corrie Tan, Straits Times Life!

“Dementia: Taking One Hard Look at our Senility and Mortality” by Reuel Eugene, Writings of a Not So Typical Writer