You run out of superlatives when you try to review Wild Rice’s latest production – a pantomime called Mama White Snake. Based on a Chinese folk story, this version is a modern pantomime with avant-garde staging, lyrics to make Lloyd-Weber jealous, a troupe of kids like I doubt the theatre anywhere has ever seen before and three actors at the top of their profession. Their performances were as good as I have seen in forty years in Singapore. A world-class show. I challenge anyone of any age to even glance at their watch during this performance.
The words that spring to mind are professional, huge fun, wholesome, fit for the youngest and for Granny and Gong Gong as well. We have come to expect the best from Ivan Heng and Producer Pam Oei and we get it. If we know Glen Goei better as a writer and producer it is only because he has been hiding his acting talents under these equally demanding jobs. No talent-hiding when Glen Goei’s Mama White Snake plays foil to Ivan’s Auntie Green Snake. The scope for delicious dressing is fully exploited.
‘Never perform with children or animals’, they say to young actors. Well, Young Ivan and Young Glen took the challenge and brought on a troupe of children whose discipline, enthusiasm and totally professional acting shine like a Special Singapore Star. Full marks to this youthful cast and to those who chose them, trained them, encouraged them and let them act so amazingly and yet so naturally. I didn’t see a foot wrongly placed.
Mama White Snake is the story of a boy brought up by his narcissistic mother and an adoring aunt in over-protective circumstances. (Hmm, there’s even a message there, isn’t there?) Only thing is, Mama and Auntie are both snakes but he is human. The ladies human-snake form remains mercifully mainly human which enables them to have some smart repartee to enhance their stunning wardrobes. Even in their snake form they look, well, interesting.
Son Meng, brilliantly acted by Andrew Marko, yearns to explore the world, leaves home and discovers a girl. A little innocent love story is entwined onto the exuberant performance. We get top quality songs from the boisterous to the sentimental, all beautifully set to the sort of enchanting melodies we all love so much and hear so little today. Young or old, your heart will sing along too. Full marks to all who conceived of, wrote (another Alfian Sa’at triumph), and produced this masterpiece – helping us forget digitisation and robots for a while.
Remembering the past, seeing its relevance to the future and making a jolly good panto for the present is not an easy task. What WIld Rice has done here is a top contribution to the development of the arts in SIngapore. I have always admired Ivan Heng for his role as mentor to young aspiring actors. Once again he shows the true measure of a mentor by putting others in the limelight ahead of himself.
May all of you who play in this epic production feel justly proud.
As SIngapore feels justly proud of you.
P.S. RUN, don’t walk, to snap up any few remaining tickets between now and 16Dec17.