“Old and New, Side by Side in Geylang“
Reviewer: Alisa Maya Ravindran
Performance: 1 July 2016
Geylang, is a light-hearted discussion of the town’s past, present and its uncertain future, weaves together stories from across time. Tensions arise between an optimistic young employee, played by Faith Sim, and the “practical” Samuel, a rising star in the ministry played by Matthew Fam, about plans to gentrify Geylang. Sim’s character is an idealist while Samuel tries not to step on too many toes on his rise to the top. Fam presents a convincing portrayal of the struggle between a desire to please the higher-ups and his personal doubts about restructuring the neighbourhood. The way Samuel changes his speech patterns to pander to different groups, like the residents of Geylang and his bosses, is comical. Yet, it also highlights in a very real way, how difficult it is for one to manage two contradictory interests from different groups.
Nur Hamidah’s portrayal of a mentally challenged girl and a human-trafficking victim is uncanny and poignant. The portrayal of gangsters and life in the seedy back alleys of Geylang is over the top, presenting the lorongs of Geylang in a more humorous and perhaps less critical light. The play is also self-aware of its own excessive drama as seen in the instances of actors breaking the fourth wall to comment on their melodramatic lines. The play allows for a curious blend of pathos and comedy. All the characters, from the workers in the ministry to the prostitutes in the Geylang brothels, struggle to find a balance between pragmatism and the desire. Their struggle is manifested in the tears, blood, regrets and even their deaths, woefully and powerfully presented by the cast. We never find out if Samuel manages to convince his superiors not to break down the old Geylang buildings, although his persuasiveness gestures towards the affirmative, suggesting a hopeful answer for the future.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
GEYLANG by Wild Rice
30 June – 3 July 2016
LASALLE College of the Arts Flexible Performance Space
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.