This play was first performed at the Singapore Arts Festival and I missed it. It won the best play a the Life! award and I was thrilled that they gave an encore performance at the Wildrice Singapore Festival 2016.
Held at the SIA Theatre at Lasalle College of the Arts, the small theatre was full yesterday. I hadn’t known that the play was in two-part on the same day, which began at 3pm and ended at 10pm, with a two hour dinner break, until I saw the ticket the night before, which explained the dearer than usual price.
Spanning each decade through 1915 t0 2015, the history of Singapore is told through the life stories of hotel guests and they check into this room; and hotel staff as they serve the guests. We move from colonial Singapore, to pre-independent, then to a young country, the millennia and then to 2015.
Some of the stories are heavy and serious, like the first one about a newly married British couple on their honeymoon. The brutal treatment by the British towards the locals and immigrant workers resulted in a split between the couple.
Then there is the sad tale of a Japanese Captain who is made to leave behind his Malay wife to travel back to Japan with his new born son at the end of WWII.
Thank goodness not all the stories are so serious. I particularly like the one with P Ramlee. The comical act was hilarious as P Ramlee attempts to persuade movie mongul Shaw to produce a realistic Malay movie with no singing, and how Azizah, a P Ramlee fan came to meet her idol.
As we move towards the 70s, its inevitable to feature hippies and transgenders as they were once the stars of Singapore before Ah Meng, our zoo mascot.
What I didn’t find realistic is the story set in 2005, after 9/11, about how a Malaysian family is subjected to interrogation by the police because they are Muslims and we are never really told what incident happened at the lobby which resulted in this. Incidentally, the story links back to the Azizah, the P Ramlee fan who is now back for a nostalgic visit to the same hotel room only to be subjected to such treatment.
Performed in several languages, including Malay, Japanese and Cantonese, the talented cast show their versatility not only in their acting but also in their linguistic skill.
The hotel room is cleverly transformed and renovated through the years by the change in the wall paper and wall painting behind the bed via a LCD screen call. Each change in act ends and begins with a song as staff bid farewell to the departing guests and welcome incoming ones.
We certainly felt welcomed and you would too. Great play. Love it.