Thursday, August 24, 2017

I still want my Kuih Chang ... my preview of Grandmother Tongue

There is a lot of evidence that a particular language has a strong impact on its culture and vice versa. Language refers to the words used, the sentence structure, intonation of words and etc. For the Chinese people especially here in Singapore and Malaysia, the Chinese language is split further into the various dialects of Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese, Hakka and Mandarin. It is extremely fascinating to see how words and structure and tone are associated to the common seen traits of their respective cultures.

I have been attending intensive Japanese language courses the past few months and knowing a bit of the Japanese culture has greatly helped me in the understanding of the Japanese language. For example, the Japanese people are generally known to be extremely polite and respectful. They are also known to talk rather softly (unless there is too much sake). One may easily get confused and conversations may get a bit long-winded due to the Japanese cultural need to avoid being direct and be perceived to be rude. But these are the nuances which we accept as part of their culture.

Another example of the close intertwining of language and culture is the Peranakan or Baba Nonya people. The language is mainly Malay with a generous splattering of Hokkien, English, Portuguese, Dutch and Tamil. This is because the Paranakans originated from Malacca and Penang during the colonial days in Malaysia. They were originally Chinese in descent but due to interracial marriages with Malays, Europeans and Indians in those times, the Peranakan culture was born. An example would be the words ‘kuih chang’ which is a combination of a Malay and a Chinese word. This perfectly exemplifies the Malay-Chinese culture of the Peranakans.

Sorry for the LONG introduction but this brings us to the upcoming play by W!ld Rice called Grandmother Tongue. This was written by Thomas Lim who wanted to show the close inter-relationship between a language and its culture. Thomas Lim wants to show via conversations and interactions between a grandmother and her grandson the Teochew culture. This play was last shown at the 2016 Singapore Theatre Festival and tickets were sold out weeks before the performance. Tickets to additional shows were also sold out weeks before. This show promises to bring on the laughter, tears and the lightbulb moments (sometimes all at once). The 2017 production is again directed by Thomas Lim with a tiny cast of 3 people. The show runs from the 28th September to the 21st October and will be held at the SOTA Studio Theatre. The latest information I got from W!ld Rice is that tickets for all the shows have been sold out. However, they may be adding more shows. So in order get tickets, kindly email to with your name, contact number, choice of performance dates and number of tickets. They will then contact you should seats open up or should there be additional shows. Also don’t worry if you do not understand Teochew. There will be surtitles in English and Mandarin. QUICKLY EMAIL THEM !!

I really hope that W!ld Rice will find a way to add more shows because I think it is very important for us to remember and treasure our culture. The Chinese dialects are quickly disappearing as the younger generation is focused only on languages they learn at school and not at home. With the disappearance of the language comes the disappearance of the culture. I for one will surely be very upset when ‘kuih chang’ disappears. I will surely be watching this as my Grandmother’s tongue is ... Teochew… 

Monday, August 21, 2017

In a Daze ... my review of Army Daze 2

I watched Army Daze 2 last Saturday at the Drama Centre. I was quite psyched up about Army Daze 2 as this is SG50, music composition done by Don Richmond, all star cast .. and hey it is Army Daze .. what can go wrong?

This show shared the same problems with the show ‘High Class’ several years ago. Music was excellent – catchy and upbeat, the humor was kinda there, large and beautiful sets, lots of fade in – fade out transitions between scenes, a strong cast but not much character development and no depth. In this show we had the likes of Chua Enlai, Shane Mardjuki, Hossan Leong and Jo Tan. These are easily within the top ten local entertainers in Singapore today. Chua Enlai only brought on the laughs with Hokkien Rhapsody. All other times he was just reciting lines. Shane Mardjuki did a decent job as the colorful Kenny Pereira but again he was just ‘colorful.’ Hossan Leong was a shadow of himself as Malcolm Png. Usually Hossan can make the crowd cry with laughter with just a flick of his finger but in Army Daze 2, just a bit of giggles and laughs here and there. Jo Tan was the only one who was funny in the show. Even her humor came from bad English pronunciation and extreme ah-lian-ness rather than wit and acting. Ms Oon Shu On is one of the rising stars in Singapore theatre and again her role was very muted. As for Ms Natalie Ong, her singing was good but her acting well, you can tell she is new. At the end of the day, she only sang for a little of the show for ‘Jin Pai Tia.’ As for the actors playing the young recruits, their roles were too small and short to comment. For the acting, the actors were very much let down and were not given much chance and time to shine in their uniqueness.

The story was fairly decent and the twist in the plot was shocking. But that was it. Just a twist. After that flat-line again.  There were little parts about the new recruits bonding with each other, little  parts about the love triangle between two of the recruits and Renee, little parts about the relationship between Malcolm and the new Chief, a little part between Malcolm and his son. That the issue with this show, they were all little parts, just a touch and move on. I felt that there was too many characters and not enough ‘screen time.’ However, the show lasted only slightly longer than 1 hour 40 minutes which was very short.

As mentioned earlier in this review, the music was good and the dancing was well choreographed. My favourite was ‘Jin Pai Tia,’ ‘Look, See, Believe’ and ‘Hokkien Rhapsody.’ The lyrics were well written and the dancing especially the ballet scene was well done.

I bet there were many who really enjoyed Army Daze 2 but sadly I wasn't one of them. Hopefully Army Daze 2 will be made into a movie with a bigger budget and please continue to cast Enlai and Jo and Hossan in it because they deserved to shine.  

*Please note that this review was intentionally done / published after the show ended to avoid having any effect during the run.