“Geylanggan – to twist, crush something to extract its essence”
Reviewer: Gabriel Lim
Performance: 13 May 2015
You cannot be more mistaken if you think Geylang is merely filled with Lorongs (lanes) that only come alive at night. What does ‘Serai’ in ‘Geylang Serai’ means? Wait, is Geylang Serai even Geylang at all? Its history is certainly far more complex. Even places like ‘Jalan Eunos’ and ‘Ubi’ literally emanate from Geylang.
Through five interweaving stories, young & W!LD’s latest production, Geylang, seeks out the audience and challenges their perception of Geylang as the stereotyped red-light district. The result is like rojak (an eclectic dish with a mix of ingredients) – there are plentiful saucy scenes filled with raunchy jokes, untold stories of fictional characters that make Geylang it is.
The play first introduces a conflict between the Chinese and the Malay community during the time of the Orang Lauts (Malay people living on boats). Two lovers are caught in this family feud, and are killed for their illicit affair. The dramatic sequence of events in this story foreshadows the racial conflicts between the Chinese and the Malays. An interesting inclusion is the origins of the of Mee Rebus (Malay noodle dish) which in itself is a Malay and Chinese hybrid – the augurs the possibility of a resolution.
Fast forward to present day, a government plan to relocate the people of Geylang to make way for urban development backfires. Wacky characters that live in Geylang from all walks of life appeal to a government official. Through tongue-in-cheek scenarios and light-hearted conversations, the story questions the possibility of co-existence between the new and the old, offering us the probability of a Geylang erased its heritage.
Towards the climax of the show, Sin Long (Leonard Tan) is featured as the triad boss, living a decadent life of drugs and sex. The story is pure comedy gold, straight out the 80s. A loyal follower of the triad will save the maiden from Sin Long who consequently loses his mind and starts killing people around him. What follows are unimaginably vulgar scenes so bad that it makes for a really hilarious play.
The production is just like durian, both sweet and bitter. It is an enjoyable show, no doubt. The young team of actors and actresses surprises with great chemistry, especially in intimate scenes. But I am keen to see this play push harder for what it is trying to convey (ie. the gentrification of Geylang). More often than not, I can hardly contain my laughter, leaving me to forget everything else.
Despite the rather small stage the large cast has to work around with, it pairs well with the close-proximity of the stage to the audience, providing an engaging experience. It feels like a Madhouse. The neon-lit stage is stunning. It definitely is Geylang in its quirky and quaint way. I watched the first night of the run which experienced some mishaps in the lighting cues and stuttering of lines. Nevertheless, this show holds great entertainment value.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
GEYLANG by Young & W!ld
13 – 17 May 2015,
10 Square @ Orchard Central
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Gabriel Lim awaits eagerly to start his undergraduate term in Yale-NUS liberal arts education this year, having just completed his term in National Service.