Reviewer: Selina Chong
Performance: 23 May 2017
Tango is the first play commissioned by Pangdemonium, and what excites me most about it is that it is written by a young Singaporean. Playwright Joel Tan’s dialogue is rich and witty, capturing the Singaporean vernacular.
For me, Tango is a story about sons. Kenneth (Koh Boon Pin) returns to Singapore with his family to care for his ageing father; Jayden (Dylan Jenkins), an almost-adolescent just discovering how unkind society can be about his gay parents; and Benmin (Benjamin Chow), a 30-year-old coming to terms with his sexuality and feeling like he may be letting down those dearest to him.
While Tango explores and encourages discussions of LGBTQ issues in Singapore, the play is essentially about family.
Rather than polarising caricatures, the characters that Tan crafted are ones that you can recognise. For instance, Lok Meng Chue’s Poh Lin is the typical nosy neighbour. But even while she sparks off the chain of events that form the backbone of the plot (refusing to serve Kenneth and his company on the grounds of them being gay parents), you acknowledge her views and her beliefs.
You cannot help but be drawn into the narrative. The masterful storytelling is helped by Tracie Pang’s direction, where she sets up two to three different scenes around the stage and deftly cuts from one to the other. It is pacey and there is not a dull moment throughout.
The Escher-esque set complements the storytelling perfectly. The blockish stacks portray Singapore as the concrete jungle, rather than the garden city. The different levels can represent the different classes (or at least perceived classes) in society. The reference to Escher also suggests there is no getting away from presenting and discussing the issues playing out on stage.
Yes, LGBTQ issues can often be polarising, exacerbated by the media – social and otherwise – which presents the issues as if they were dichotomous. We are often guilty of seeking views that confirm our own, creating deeper divisions and building up our own concept of an ‘other’ so utterly different from us. The reality though is that LGBTQ issues revolve around people, and every single person has a rich biography that cannot simply be distilled to gay or not gay. Tango is full of life and heart, and it reminds us to think about and care for people, whatever their beliefs.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Tango by Pangdemonium
19 May – 4 June 2017
Drama Centre Theatre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Selina loves the theatre and its ability to engage, enrapture, and entertain. The magic of the stage never ceases to create joy and wonder for her. The potential of the theatre to educate also dovetails with her teacher duties and she wishes more young people had time to watch a show instead of attend another tuition lesson.