Reviewer: Andre Theng
Performance: 12 December 2014, 7.30pm
The West of Singapore is nothing like the East. While the East is considered by many to be a peaceful and historical area of Singapore: full of heritage buildings and good food – the West can lay no such claim. It is thought of as “ulu” (the boondocks) and uninteresting. And so Wild Rice’s latest pantomime, Monkey Goes West, is pretty spot on when it plays on how Jurong West is “not ghetto, okay”.
Like previous years’ successful local adaptations of well-known tales such as Cinderal-LAH! and Jack & the Bean Sprout! Monkey Goes West borrows from the Chinese epic, Journey to the West and transplants its characters to Singapore where Ah Tang (Joshua Lim) is making his journey from Haw Par Villa back home to Jurong West. Along the way, he is joined by characters from the original story, including the Monkey King (Sugie Phua), Pigsy (Frances Lee), Princess Iron Fan (Chua Enlai), Red Boy (Kimberly Chan), King Bull (Lim Kay Siu) and Sandy (Siti Khalijah).
That said, the precise premise of the show isn’t really the main point. The point is that everyone gets imbibed with festive cheer, and left entertained by the jokes. And entertain it did. The jokes and the excellent music by Elaine Chan left the audience in stitches from start to finish, from Enlai’s cross-dressing and his mispronounced words (“You deserve a standing ovulation”), to local references to the haze and the “Yellow River (Ribbon) Project”. Monkey Goes West covers all bases – cute children doing martial arts, audience participation, pop culture references, adult jokes, emotional moments (the sub-plot of the Ah Tang’s dead mother) and moral lessons on the importance of family and of teamwork.
The entire production is ably supported by the spiffy sets by Wong Chee Wai that includes a giant lotus and gold pillars. The tight directing by first-time director Sebastian Tan, flamboyant costumes by the Tube Gallery and a clever script by Alfian Sa’at all made for an excellent production.
Sure, at times the jokes were lame and predictable that I felt like I was watching a Channel 8 variety show or the President’s Star Charity. But only the Grinch would grumble after watching this production, and I cannot deny that I laughed plenty of times. I left the theatre humming the theme song, and I felt a whole lot more festive than before the performance. Monkey Goes West is truly a production for people of all ages and it certainly embodies the spirit of the season.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
MONKEY GOES WEST by W!ld Rice
21 November – 13 December 2014
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Andre Joseph Theng is passionate about the intricacies of language, and reviewing allows him to combine his love for both theatre and writing.