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Jeremy’s “Buttons in the Bread” Theatre Accolades 2011!

December 22, 2011
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The overriding theme for 2011 might have been “restagings”, because we saw the restaging of productions like “Model Citizens”, “H is for Hantu”, “Emily of Emerald Hill”, “Charged”, “Nadirah”, “Gemuk Girls” and a few others.

Nonetheless, there were a few notable new productions which impressed greatly as well.

Hence, this being the year end, I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect upon the year that was and recount the best and most quirky experiences we’ve had in Singapore theatre for 2011.

And unlike the annual Life! Arts Power List, our winners don’t always remain the same, so here goes:

Most Enjoyable Productions:

1) “I Love A-AI”《我爱阿爱》 – This Chinese play written by Hong Kong playwright Raymond To was strangely satisfying, although the Tamagotchi and Andrea Bocelli references were slightly puzzling. Never enjoyed a Chinese play as much as this before.

2) “Into The Woods” – The difficulty level of Sondheim’s music can often be considered ridiculous, and you could see that Dream Academy had put in a great deal of effort into this one. Not the most memorable of productions, but competently executed nonetheless. Having the guts to even stage this show (at the Esplanade Theatre, no less) was commendable in itself.

3) “Gemuk Girls” – Technically a restaging, but my, what a performance. No one walked away without feeling deeply disturbed by this play about ISA detention, and that was the whole point of it all really.

4) “On This Emerald Hill” – This solo act was highly memorable, if anything at least for the experience of having theatrical Svengali Jonathan Lim make you swear you saw at least four different actors on stage.

Least Enjoyable Productions:

1) “The Juggler’s Tale” – Wasn’t able to review this as I couldn’t bring myself to sit through the entire play, and even if I did, I don’t think I would have wanted to anyway. Intermission couldn’t have come soon enough. Pity, as it all started so promisingly.

2) “881 The Musical” – Could have been so much better, but chose to go the “Fried Rice Paradise” route. I gave up the ghost when the Durian sisters started squirting soya milk out of their chests.

The “She Works Hard For Her Money” Award:

You’ve got to hand it to Karen Tan – is there a harder worker in local theatre than the beloved veteran actress? Off hand, I can think of “Model Citizens”, “Beauty Kings”, “Aladdin”, “To Whom It May Concern”, “Family Outing”, “Twice Removed” and “DNR” as productions she’s starred in this year. Truly one of the gems of our local theatre scene (and my favourite actress as well!).

The “I Think I Just Crapped My Pants” Award:

“H is for Hantu” – There was no scarier theatrical moment this year than when Angie suddenly appeared with that little floating ghost over her shoulder. Even that supposed visit by the MDA officer in “Fear of Writing” had nothing on this. And oh, speaking of “Fear of Writing”…

The “Thanks, Social Media, For Letting The Cat Out Of The Bag” Award:

“Fear of Writing” – This was a play like no other in 2011. It was an event. There was actually a palpable sense of anticipation in the air before the play began, and I’d never experienced such a feeling before. You could attribute it to the fact that it was Tan Tarn How’s first play in about 10 years, plus the fact that there was a lot of buzz about the play on social media immediately after opening night regarding the “friendly MDA visit”. It’s a pity the invisible theatre ruse at the end of the play misdirected audiences from rationally examining the merits of the rest of the play.

The “If All Else Fails, At Least We Get To See The Hunks In Speedos” Award:

“Beauty Kings” – The most gratuitous display of male flesh on a theatrical stage this year. Just as well that it was all actually somewhat relevant to the plot!

The “Most Unbelievably Eloquent And Beautiful Script” Award:

“The Weight of Silk on Skin” – There is no argument here. Huzir Sulaiman’s incredibly lush script was worth the price of admission alone, and to hear it being bravely articulated on stage by Ivan Heng was one of the highlights of the Man Singapore Theatre Festival.

The “Most Finger-Punishing Regime” Award:

“Turn By Turn We Turn” – The Finger Players live up to their billing as true players of fingers, by risking their digits for this epic adventure that is depicted through the use of intricate Chinese hand puppets. A joy to behold, but it surely must have been absolutely gruelling on their fingers too.

The “Oh, It’s Over, *CLAP*…Oh Wait, It’s Not!” (i.e. Most Awkward Ending) Award:

“Family Outing” – Credit to Joel Tan – how many 24-year-olds can say that they have had their full-length play staged at the Drama Centre Theatre? “Family Outing” was by no means a poor effort, although the flow of the ending definitely needed a bit of work. And oh, the large origami boat at the end is still one of the more haunting images of 2011 theatre, and not in a good way.

The “Best Viral Promotional Video” Award:

“Emily of Emerald Hill” – Ivan Heng’s video set to Madonna’s “Material Girl” to promote the play “Emily of Emerald Hill” earlier this year was a stroke of genius. I mean, how many people can actually pull it off? And just for the record, let it be remembered that Ivan Heng played to sell-out theatres at both the Drama Centre Theatre and the Esplanade Theatre this year with full-length monologues. Yes, he commanded an entire theatre by the strength of his ability and personality on two separate shows this year. I’d like to see that being matched anytime soon.

The “Best Use Of 87 Chairs To Close A Show” Award:

“Cooling Off Day” – Alfian Sa’at’s piece of verbatim theatre on our watershed 2011 General Elections was both refreshing and thought-provoking. Most people would tell you that what they’d remembered best was the glimpse of the 81 white chairs and 6 red chairs all neatly lined up on stage before the lights went out to close the show. Truly one of the local theatre’s most memorable images this year, and in a good way.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2011 4:07 pm

    Thanks for your review, Jeremy.

    Though I didn’t watch as many local productions as you are (really cannot fight; not so committed as you and Ilkosa), with the handfuls of them which I had attended, I also happened to do a recap for all the performances I had watched in 2011 a few days ago.

    To cut my list short in sharing here: I have given my Best Script’s award to “Nadirah” by Alfian Sa’at, it is also one of the most impactful & unforgettable play to me for some personal reasons. I appreciate that the script was very well informative, allowing me to know more about the Muslim religion and the struggles they face, within a short duration of an hour plus. The chemistry and the acting of the cast were great! The script writer made me feel that he had gone through the footsteps of his every character, knowing them throughout and taking no shortcuts in presenting his story. These are the elements which I find them very important in a successful play.

    I didn’t catch “The Weight of Silk on Skin”, therefore, couldn’t compare it with “Nadirah” if I might change my choice for my best script. =p Maybe if next time if I manage to get the original script or watch the play when they have rerun; I will find out. =)

    Yes! “One of the local theatre’s most memorable images”! I like the closing of “Cooling Off Day” very much too, thanks for mentioning it! I find it very creative and Witty! 😉

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