Saturday, December 30, 2006

Best in Singapore and JB (and some say the subcontinent of India)

I'm in Bangkok right now, but I got an SMS from Jason Wee this morning. It was about our book, SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century.

"We're the ST best non-fiction book of the yr! We beat out cholera, 9-11, big macs and the entire subcontinent of india."

Woohoo! Many thanks to whoever at the Straits Times did the picking. If someone's got a transcript of the article, please do send me a copy! Won't be back till next Wednesday. :) Btw, if you're having trouble finding a copy, I believe they're still out in force at Kinokuniya, though Borders has been bled more or less dry by Christmas sales.

Now, let me just home and scan in that article...

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Merry Christmas and Dong Zhi Kuai Le! Before I start making preparations for my trip, I'm gonna mention my next "last boy" promotion and reading will be 2-3pm, Saturday January 20th, at Kinokuniya, Takashimaya.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006


Life! says that if I'm gonna continue as a theatre reviewer for them, I'll have to stop writing commentaries for Today. Despite the differing subject matters (I've written exclusively on individual theatre pieces for Life! and on visual arts festivals for Today), it's just not SPH policy to have freelancers write for competitors. Tch.


Terry and Don, two of my bestest JC friends, have invited me to go with them to Thailand! I'll be there from the night of Wed 27 Dec to Wed 3 Jan. It's my first time in Bangkok as an adult. I have been told it's inspiring.

My friends will be flying back on Jan 1, but I couldn't get an AirAsia flight back any earlier; shoulda taken the bus and train; I mean, two days alone in Bangkok, what am I gonna do????? ;)

Seriously though, I could do with advice. E.g. I wanna write a Fridae article while I'm there but I don't speak Thai... how to be edgy news reporter like dat?

Oh yeah - here's an article I wrote for ST that ran in Life!, Tuesday 19 December, 2006, p7. Not the greatest article in the world, and it required some amendments from Deputy Editor Tan Hsueh Yun. But for the record, here it is.

Will be on hiatus for a while... getting out of town. See above. ;D

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Georgette - the Musical!

Well, today's my third and possibly final review in front of the Singapore Musical Theatre Society (MTS) for my new musical about the life of Singapore pioneer artist Georgette Chen (her self-portrait's on the side).

The score's written by the very talented (and alarmingly young) composer Clement Yang, who's leaving the pharmaceuticals business to become a full-time guitarist. The review is sung by a bunch of volunteers, including myself (we're very very low on penises among the volunteer cast).

The musical's being incubated as part of Five-Foot Broadway, an initiative of MTS to develop new musical writing talents. If all goes well, we could have a show at the Esplanade during the next Arts Fest.

(God knows I've chosen a thoroughly commercial topic. I'll do my transgender bisexual Cyrano de Bergerac operetta when I've got more of a name for myself. Yes Rizal, go ahead and call me a sellout.)

Update: My god. Island-wide flooding caused immense logistical problems. I ended up having to read for about 3 different roles myself. The critics who did make it gave way too much musical feedback for me to relay to the composer. I burnt out at the end. Generally positive feedback on the text, though.

Friday, December 15, 2006

TODAY, Thursday December 14, 2006, p10

Here's my latest commentary in Today newspaper. I took on the National Museum this time - sigh, I really do like what they're doing, and I didn't give it such an inflammatory title myself (I called it "Payback at the Museum", like some John Woo movie). But I have to admit, this current headline makes you jump a little more.

If I hadn't had to edit for space, I'd have mentioned that Museum Director Lee Chor Lin has demonstrated support for the arts consistently in the past - she commissioned Royston to film "The Old Man and the River", for example.

In fact, the Museum is publishing a response tomorrow. Probably putting forward the statement that they have to present as objective a view of history as possible, etc, etc. They have their point. Akan Datang!!!

P.S. Of course this ends any chance I have of staging "David Marshall: The Klezmer Musical Extravaganza!" within their premises. (Sob).

Update: Ooh, here's Dr Lee's reply:

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Sweet! They're finally featuring my site on! Which means it's a perfect opportunity to advertise my next gig.

I'm promoting my poetry book last boy at Earshot Cafe at the Arts House next Thursday evening. It's a special combination of the Poetry Slams and the Writers Connect events organised by Chris Mooney-Singh.

If you can't turn up, well, you can go for my National Book Development Council event that I've choped in May, or you can buy the book from Kino, Borders, Earshot, Books Actually or directly by mail from Firstfruits publications - this works internationally.

Anyway, in case you're still up for my slam performance, it'll be on

Thursday December 14th
between 7 to 9pm.
Earshot Cafe
Arts House

Is Zelo a Hero?

Urg. That was the headline given to my review of Agni Kootthu's O$P$ in yesterday's Life! I'm getting paid for it (thanks for the lobang Xinyi!), so I can't complain, but I figure I might as well post the review as I originally wrote it - without the introduction cut out.

(In case it wasn't apparent in the review, I thought Max Ling from certain angles was pretty hot. Or maybe I just wanna fuck a samseng)

Cruel joy

Agni Kootthu
Guinness Theatre
Ng Yi-Sheng

This is a dangerous play to watch. I came to O$P$ (OweMoneyPayMoney) expecting a documentary of social victimhood in the world of illegal money-lending. What I encountered was something greater; a powerful tale of a tragic hero, all the more empathetic for his psychotic cruelty.

In this one-man show, actor Max Ling tells the story of Zelo, a debt collector famed among loan sharks for his creative viciousness in exacting punishment on debtors. Yet he has a crisis of his own: his ex-wife refuses to let him visit their retarded daughter.

Zelo comes across as an overgrown schoolboy, by turns charming, threatening and pathetic, especially pitiful when offering toys to his unresponsive child. But one discovers one feels closest to the protagonist at moments of extreme violence - on smashing his father-in-law's corridor plants, or beating up a handphone user in a cinema. Zelo reminds us that there's a madman in all of us, capable of havoc.

Playwright-director Elangovan is renowned for his investigations into the world of the underclasses, such as Buang Suay, about an Indian prostitute. It's unusual for him to structure a play around a perpetrator rather than a victim of violence, but he does this with flair, working with Ling to develop a believable portrait of a Chinese samseng, scripted in English, Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese.

Ling's skills in physical theatre yield an excellent performance, featuring distinctive swaggers, operatic stances and martial arts. His elastic face and acrobatic athleticism allow him to switch characters in an instant, playing both the furious debt collector and the fearful debtor cowering beneath.

Yet sadly, he conveys little variation in voices, thus confusing several characters in one's mind. And while initially gripping, Elangovan's scenes eventually become formulaic, almost inevitably ending with Zelo's brutal outbursts. Thankfully, the play climaxed before this cycle became wearisome.

In terms of stagecraft, Agni Kootthu triumphs through cunning use of a spartan selection of props. In the final scene, mere smears of ultraviolet paint and two flashlights enable Ling to transform into a luminous skeleton, bones daubed on his body, plucking circles of light from the air to feed his hungry mouth.

In a time of sophisticated theatre, the pared-down, minimalist violence of O$P$ delivers a jolt of raw, cathartic energy to the jaded viewer. One can't help but love Zelo - as an outlaw, he wreaks chaos not for just the moneylender, but on our behalf.