“House of Curiosities”
Reviewer: Walter Chan
Performance: 20 August 2016
A light-hearted carnival that celebrates the steampunk genre
In short, House of Curiosities can be described as a steampunk carnival. There is not only a stage performance, but also a fashion show, a playground set, an arts-and-crafts station, and a snacks station.
You might be wondering: what’s going on? Well, here’s a bit of useful trivia about the team behind House of Curiosities. Sweet Tooth describes itself as “the community and outreach branch” of Cake Theatrical Productions. This is the production company behind performances like Ophelia, Versus, and the Decimal Points series. In other words, the Cake aesthetic remains within the various installations in this “carnival”, but the entire setup is geared towards engaging a wider reach of the community.
I make my way past the entrance booth, and into a tunnel with walls made out of distorting mirrors – one mirror made you look short, another made you look tall, etc. And I arrive just in time for the start of the first stage performance (“The Mechanical Heart”), where as a prelude, Christopher (played by Lian Sutton), the son of eccentric inventor Professor Chambers (played by Julius Foo), introduces the characters of the performance one by one. Wheeling their bicycles/tricycles around the track surrounding the seating area, the cast also take the time to interact with the audience, which has a healthy mix of children and adults alike. The mood is cheery and festive as the cast display their elaborate costumes in close proximity to the audience, not unlike an actual carnival.
It is time for the performance – a simple tale about finding one’s humanity amidst the age of technological invention. The protagonist, Christopher, helps his father to build a time machine and is nearly stopped by the antagonist, Lady Kraken (played by Kristina Pakhomova) – who as the name suggests, has long mechanical tentacle-like weapons attached to her arms – but in the end, she reconnects with her own humanity and all is forgiven. And judging by the response from the audience, the children like it as much as the adults.
Next up is a fashion show that invites three volunteers from the audience to be guest designers, dressing models (cast members) up in steampunk-inspired costumes. But what I like best about the entire installation-slash-carnival is the relaxed and carefree mood. During the breaks in between performances, one can wander to the snacks station for free cotton candy and popcorn, or let the kids frolic in the playground, or even visit the arts-and-crafts station to decorate their own “Professor Chamber’s time travelling clock”, which is given as a door gift. It also helps that there are bubble machines pumping bubbles into the air during breaks, which the younger audience members find very enjoyable.
All in all, I find House of Curiosities to be a successful and valuable community outreach project.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
HOUSE OF CURIOSITIES by Sweet Tooth (Cake Theatrical Production)
19, 20, 26, 27 August 2016
Cathay Green (Part of the Singapore Night Festival 2016)
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Walter Chan has recently starting dabbling in play-writing, most usually writing for fun, but hopes to develop his hobby into something more substantial in the future.