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Five Stars for 5 Plays: Celebrating ‘ImagiNATION’

Singapore’s fiftieth year already seems to have had its share of excitement, from the rah-rah celebrations of National Day to the intense general elections.

But hold up, we’re not done yet.

With the fifteenth birthday of Wild Rice coinciding with SG50, the local theatre company intends to make this year’s celebrations a season to remember. Their party plans: Staging ImagiNATION, a series of five plays starring the five stars on our national flag: Democracy, Peace, Progress, Equality and Justice.

As we can tell from the three plays staged so far, these are more than just expressions of nationalism, offering audiences rich themes from morality to international relations.

Public Enemy | Democracy
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Which would you rather: save your country by exposing the company that has been leaking toxins into the water supply and stand to lose everything you have – name, family and good reputation –  or keep quiet and gain prestige, maintain your place in society and keep your loved ones by your side?

In this adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of The People, one man faces this choice. It is a nail-biting and powerful performance with a strong cast and an even stronger message, that makes you leave the theatre wondering what democracy truly means and if you really are willing to pay its price.

Another Country | Peace

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The winning aspect of the piece is that the Singaporean cast performed the Malaysian texts while the Malaysian cast performed the Singaporean texts.

I think it’s safe to say that Singapore and Malaysia have a past more complex than Taylor Swift’s entire love life (no offence meant, Taylor). You’ve got to give Wild Rice respect for attempting to stage a play chronicling the relationship between the two countries – even more for doing such a spectacular job of it, with this carefully curated set of Singaporean and Malaysian texts.

The winning aspect of the piece is that the Singaporean cast performed the Malaysian texts while the Malaysian cast performed the Singaporean texts. What better way to provide a deeper understanding of both countries? Another Country is a humorous look at our ups and downs that makes us grateful for our peaceful friendship and the long journey it took to get there.

Hotel | Progress
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“Once in a while, there comes the sort of show that makes you set your critic’s notebook aside and sit up in your seat. Hotel is one of those rare creatures.”

As proclaimed by The Straits Times‘ Corrie Tan, Hotel was truly the best play I had seen for this year. A five-hour epic divided into two parts, the play saw 100 years of Singapore history from the confines of room 308 of an unnamed hotel (likely, from the uncanny similarities, to be modeled after the Raffles Hotel on Beach Road).

People from all walks of life – British businessmen, Indian mutineers, Cantonese housemaids, Japanese soldiers, local film icon P Ramlee, an American tourist, transgender people, squabbling families, lovers, and finally, a dying old man – come together to tell what could possibly the quickest cheat sheet for Singapore history newbies.

This hodgepodge but carefully curated ensemble was anchored by a strong script and impressive acting chops – the 13 actors juggled no less than eight different languages and dialects between them. My only complaint? I wish they had a longer running period so more people could enjoy this masterpiece.

 


Has your interest been piqued? Wishing you hadn’t missed out on these plays? It’s not too late to catch the other performances!

The Emperor’s New Clothes, which explores equality by adding local flavour to the classic fairy tale, will be opening this November. Rounding up the ImagiNATION series next March is Cold Store, which is based on recently declassified (and controversial) official documents with the play centred on the idea of justice.

ImagiNATION promises to delight both the local in you and push you to consider what being Singaporean means to you. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday in a year that has made us proud to be a part of our little red dot.