“A classic Singapore story in the heartlands”
Reviewer: Alisa Maya Ravindran
Performance: 25 June 2016
Desert Wine’s production of Stella Con’s classic, Emily of Emerald Hill, brings theatre right into of the heartlands. The showing is at the Bukit Panjang Community Centre, with a small stage and intimate crowd. This monodrama stars Laura Kee as Emily, and as an actor she is young. Despite her age, she plays the role of a gossipy, power-hungry nonya convincingly. Emily’s journey at first seems like a classic rags-to-riches tale, but in the end is a tale of desperation, loss and family. Emily is an enigmatic figure and until the end, one never knows for sure if she understands that her overbearing nature is what pushes all her family away from her. Kee sustains the audience’s attention throughout the one-woman show with her spot-on mannerisms and speech patterns that animates her character. Kee also pulls off the code-switching well. The disparity in the way that Emily addresses foreigners and society people and her servants is comedic. Yet, it is also a poignant reminder of class differences, and how easy it is for one to forget their humbler beginnings.
In the final analysis, Desert Wine’s rendition of Emily of Emerald Hill is an apt choice for a theatre production in the heartlands, as it addresses concerns central to the development of Singapore. Emily’s is a story that is quintessentially Singaporean; it is about dreams, ambition, family and struggling to figure out how they all work together. Despite the simple set and less-than-spectacular lights and sounds, Kee’s performance remains impressive.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
EMILY OF EMERALD HILL by Desert Wine Productions
20 May – 31 July 2016
Various Community Centres
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Alisa Maya is reading English Literature at the National University of Singapore and also writes for several online and print publications. She enjoys the diversity and dynamism of theatre and hopes to learn and write more about theatre in the coming year.