Sunday, March 11, 2007


I caught a play at the National Library Centre Drama Centre, Titoudao.

It was not "world-class", but it was entertaining. An interesting format built around wayang - on the one level, there was the wayang play within a play, but on the other, the story of Mdm Oon Ah Chiam which was being told outside it, was told in a blend of wayang and modern play conventions. Like the mixed use of Hokkien, English, and Mandarin, this generated some confusion, but in the end, I didn't have to understand every last detail to see the broad strokes being painted.

And the broad strokes painted an oxymoron, of a artform which was perhaps crass and outdated, yet tinted with nostalgia and restrained longing. I had never watched a wayang before, and as I watched the wayang sections I wondered, "was it really exactly like this? So transparently obvious, the clear winks to the audience and self-mocking humour?"

Yet, that did not really detract from the appeal which the form had. Who says that plays and movies have to immerse you in another world, anyhow? Maybe we all need a little of this, an escape from reality into a brightly painted toy world where our faces are clearly painted for all to see.

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