“An ‘A’ Production- Artistic, Amusing and Adept!”
Reviewer: Beverly Yuen
Performance: 26 November 2016
Written by Alfian Sa’at, directed by Sebastian Tan and with music composed by Elaine Chan, Monkey Goes West is an award-winning play first staged in 2014 to sold-out audience.
The cross-cultural and cross-gender casting is hilarious and effective. Siti Khalijah Zainal, who cross-dresses as Sandy, brings a dynamic comic and hip upbeat depiction of this traditionally down-to-earth character. Siti Khalijah also plays the Chinese goddess Guan Yin with a motherly disposition. Chua Enlai plays Auntie Fanny and Princess Iron Fan who mispronounce words incessantly to rib-tickling effect.
Joshua Lim plays a school boy who is mistaken as the monk Tang Xuan Zang by the Monkey King (Sugie Phua), Pigsy (Frances Lee) and Sandy. He interacts with the audience and engages both adults and children with aplomb. He is the charismatic crowd-pleaser of the evening! Phua plays the Monkey King with his agile movements, and sings in the midst of vigorous movements which requires skillful execution of breath, rhythm and emotions simultaneously. This despite a few mishaps while executing his stunts. Lee brings Pigsy to life with its lumpy movement, and the constant “oink” in her lines.
A huge credit has to go to the playwright, Alfian, who fuses an epic fantasy and the modern Singapore using witty localized dialogue filled with double entendre of political and sexual innuendos for the adults among the children crowd. The music and songs are a mix of traditional Chinese music, pop and rock. The highlight is the duet between Siti Khalijah’s soothing tune and Lim’s Chinese childhood song “Mother is the Best in the World”.
Set design by Wong Chee Wai fluidly and swiftly changes from one landscape to the next, with the characters scaling mountains and seas. Scenes which involve children from Martial House Kids performing their aerobatic fights are a joy to watch. The shadow play by The Finger Players depicting the fight between the Monkey King and King Bull (Darius Tan) brings the contests between the characters to a new dimension.
Monkey Goes West is a must-watch production for anyone who is looking for an evening of extravaganza with a dip in the arts. This is a production artistically, amusingly and adeptly created for Singaporeans of all ages.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
MONKEY GOES WEST by Wild Rice
18 Nov – 17 Dec 2016
SOTA Studio Theatre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Beverly Yuen is an arts practitioner, and co-/founder of Theatre OX and In Source Theatre. She keeps a blog at beverly-films-events.blogspot.sg.