Theatre review: W!ld Rice's Mama White Snake
1. Quips and clap-backs between the leads
30 years on, Glen Goei has finally returned to the Singapore stage as Madam White Snake. He performed alongside his long-time friend and fellow theatre veteran Ivan Heng, playing Madam Green Snake. Their undeniable on-stage chemistry shines through their waggish exchanges and comical mannerisms of celestial snake sisters. Weaving in Singaporean inside jokes about Asian family stereotypes and the use of Chinese dialects, you can't help but feel a spiritual connection to the script cleverly written by W!ld Rice's resident playwright Alfian Sa'at. The antagonists of the pantomime — Master Fahai, played by Siti Khalijah Zainal, and his malevolent wife Madam Ngiao, played by Zelda Tatiana Ng — also provided comic relief with their brashful confabs that were endearing at times.
2. Sick martial arts moves
Three months of training and seven weeks of rehearsals certainly paid off. The swift transitions between moves showed off Chinese opera director and martial arts instructor Choy Yien Chow's prowess. He guided the younger ones, from the sea warriors played by First Stage! kids, to Heng who single-handedly performed a spear-kicking fight sequence. Indeed a chip off the old block, Choy's son Gordon also had his minute of fame when he showed off some kungfu moves. Throwing in a mix of dainty Getai sensibilities and some twerking to Nicki Minaj's 'My Anaconda Don't', you have to applaud the pantomime's choreographer Andy Benjamin Cai for gelling all these unlikely elements together seamlessly.
3. Beautiful musical compositions
Along with her team, award-winning composer Elaine Chan wrote beautiful harmonies that blended traditional Chinese music influences such as the pentatonic scale and erhu with catchy, pop melodies and sing-along English lyrics. Opening the show with a strong, dramatic number in the house of Madam White Snake, the Oriental tune sticks with you even after the curtains close. You'll leave the theatre starry eyed after listening to love interests Andrew Marko Tan and Cheryl Tan belt out a duet about fate.
4. Performances by the First Stage! kids
Playing rolling pandas, shaolin disciples, crustacean soldiers and mini-mes of the lead characters, these children were a delight to have on stage. Their zesty energy enhanced the colourful performance by their older co-stars and vibrant set design. No easy feat for these young ones, they rehearsed till 10pm everyday after school hours during the lead up to opening night.
5. The ultimate takeaway
A treat for both young and old, the overarching message of love and acceptance is told in a warm and unconventional way. Using male actors Goei and Heng to play the lead roles of two snake sisters is a conscious commentary on how love is still love, no matter what form it takes. Drawing a parallel to Mimi's family that paints a traditional household image with one father, one mother and a child, it again treads the lines of, as the saying goes, 'same same but different'. Two same gender otherworldly beings aren't any less capable of love than archetypal parent figures.
Till 16 December at Drama Centre Theatre. Book here.