Sunday, June 22, 2008

I'll be in NYC from 23 June to 5 July.

In fact, I'm in Changi Airport Terminal 3 right now.

So don't call me, can? Waste phone money. :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Book launch for my first novel, Eating Air

How could I forget? By the way, if anyone official asks, this is a film novelisation, so I'm still eligible for all those other first-novel grants and prizes when I finally compose an independent opus.

Anyway, details:

Friday 20 June
THE POD, Level 16
National Library, 100 Victoria Street

Dress code: business attire. (Yeah, right.)

The books being launched are 12 Storeys by Dr Yeo Wei Wei, 4:30 by James Toh, Eating Air by myself. Hope to seeya there!

UPDATE: Here's a shot of the book itself:

And the wunnerful people behind it. From left to right, publisher Enoch Ng, writer Dr Yeo Wei Wei, and directors Kelvin Tong and Jasmine Ng (who really is much prettier when she's not being derisive). Almost in the picture is Kat, Kelvin's assistant director at Boku films.

UPDATED UPDATE: Ooh ooh ooh! Channel News Asia has an article about it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

small metal objects

For some reason, the copy editors at ST felt it wasn't worth mentioning that Kinda Hot was banned when it was first performed. Well, let's remind people.

(Not sure if this is my best review, though.)

Back to Back Theatre
VivoCity Sentosa Concourse Level 3
Ng Yi-Sheng

In the middle of VivoCity, four actors are staging a strange, compelling drama. Two men, Gary and Steve, have been contacted by a high-profile executive named Allan. They’ve agreed to sell him drugs for a big business party tonight, but Steve has experienced a breakdown and won’t move from the spot.

The plot of “small metal objects” is as simple as that, but the way Back to Back Theatre tells the story brings it to a whole new level. Hidden in the crowds, the actors are barely visible to the audience, who’re seated at a distance. They’re only audible to us because their voices are transmitted electronically to our headphones.

While stage characters usually appear larger than life, Gary, Steve and Allan look tiny to us, an oddly believable part of the human landscape that surrounds them. They’re visually obstructed by lines of tourists exiting the Sentosa train station, upstaged by mischievous children playing in the foreground. We almost believe we’re eavesdropping on a real transaction, one of the numerous everyday dramas that occur in our midst.

Productions comparable to this have been staged in the past. Spell #7, for example, created a performance tour of Little India in 2002 entitled “Kinda Hot”, though this was banned by the police due to concerns about “mingling”.

However, Back to Back Theatre has added a deeper layer to this show by recruiting intellectually disabled actors to devise and perform the two main characters. It’s never explicitly stated whether Gary and Steve have disabilities, but their hesitant, muted style of acting is disconcertingly different from what we’re used to.

Simon Laherty’s performance as Steve is particularly unsettling. Slack-jawed and wide-eyed, he stares blankly at the audience through most of the play as if idiotically terrified. But when Allan – and later, his psychologist colleague Carolyn – attempt to bribe him, first with money, then with offers of emotional and sexual favours, he resists with such insistence that he becomes our hero.

For all their money, power and intelligence, Allan and Carolyn are helpless when this man says no. Gary sticks by him, despite the knowledge that he’ll lose money for his devotion. It’s a slap in the face of the capitalist world of the mall, a reminder that some people can’t be bought.

The universe of “small metal objects” is so intimate, so embedded in the private interior worlds of other people that it makes us uncomfortable. Good theatre ought to achieve that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm also a Trevvy columnist now.

Just did an article for Father's Day.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Incidentally, I'm also an outdoor improv participant.

Get in on the action at Mission: Singapore. (No, they're not a Christian recruiting centre. The leader is an 18 year-old kid in the NJC Malay Dance Troupe.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Heard It On the Wireless

The following review was printed in today's Straits Times Life! - or at least, a version of it was.  Since I disagree with the way the editor treated it, I'm just gonna reproduce the original review here so it can be googlable.

Heard it on the Wireless
The Kransky Sisters
Esplanade Recital Studio
Ng Yi-Sheng

Even before the Kransky Sisters step on stage, you know they're going to be fun. A projector flashes photographs of their tours across Australia: a provincial world of dodgy rest-stops, community centre recitals and kangaroo road-kill.

Then the three sisters enter, dressed identically in black wigs, long-sleeved polka dotted blouses and low heeled shoes, each one dolled up as the very image of a stereotypical, straight-laced old maid. They bumble into position, introducing themselves with their eccentric brand of deadpan humour.

The real surprise for the audience is their music – oddly beautiful, yet completely off-kilter renditions of pop songs, played on a bizarre ensemble of electone, tuba, tambourine and carpenter's saw. (The last of these produces an eerily lovely twang when stroked with a violin bow).

You have to love the incongruity of the act: three middle-aged women performing tunefully harmonious covers of “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This”, “The Age of Aquarius” and “Highway to Hell”, all in the clipped, precise English of antique schoolteachers.

Songs are accompanied by rib-tickling banter: Mourne, the lead singer, describes their rural Queensland life with appalling anecdotes - memories of drunken fathers, hallucinogenic trips after mushroom soup, accidental burials of pet rabbits in wet concrete.

Mourne is echoed by her sister Eve, the percussionist, who barely dares to speak for herself, while Dawn – the woodwind player, born from their mother's scandalous second marriage – stays rigidly wordless throughout.

It's all terribly funny till halfway through, when the freshness of the concept starts to sag. Mind you, the Sisters never stop being amusing, and some great gags emerge involving audience participation. Still, they can't quite sustain the original energy of their comedy.

And it's at this point that the darkness of the show sinks in. These characters have led horribly oppressive lives, from the abuse suffered under their mother (who went after their ankles with a cheese-grater) to the way Mourne restrains Eve from pursuing romance. At one point, silent Dawn interrupts a song with an unending scream - plus, she's revealed to have tried to murder her sisters by marooning them in the desert.

I have to ask: is it tasteless of this show to mock spinsters, lampooning them as frigid and repressed? Or is it empowering – does it celebrate the figure of the independent, nonconformist older woman, one who can subvert pop culture as casually as she buries a dead emu?