Saturday, July 27, 2013

Three Children & Hokkien Me: A Double-Bill

Three Children & Hokkien Me: A Double-Bill<br>Presenting Ovidia Yu’s Hokkien Me and Leow Puay Tin’s Three Children as part of The Arts House’s ongoing Food-O-Philia programme.
PHOTO: Three Children & Hokkien Me: A Double-Bill
Presenting Ovidia Yu’s Hokkien Me and Leow Puay Tin’s Three Children as part of The Arts House’s ongoing Food-O-Philia programme.
Hokkien Me by Our Company. Photo: Our Company.
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SINGAPORE — For their debut offering, new theatre group Our Company takes on the works of two well-respected playwrights, presenting Ovidia Yu’s Hokkien Me and Leow Puay Tin’s Three Children as part of The Arts House’s ongoing Food-O-Philia programme. And it’s rather satisfying, too.

It doesn’t start out that way, however, with Yu’s monologue about a Cantonese woman’s struggle to be accepted in a Hokkien household. First staged in 1995 as part of another double-bill (with Desmond Sim’s Teochew Porridge), Hokkien Me can be described as hawker success story-meets-Emily Of Emerald Hill.

Ordinary secretary marries banker boss, encounters grumpy mum-in-law, learns a new dish, revives the family fortunes and becomes a big shot. Director Luke Kwek doesn’t even try to nudge this one out from under the shadow of the classic play, with its own image of a matriarch (in the making?) on her matriarchal chair.



THREE CHILDREN & HOKKIEN ME: A DOUBLE-BILL
PHOTO: THREE CHILDREN & HOKKIEN ME: A DOUBLE-BILL
(From left to right: Mark Cheng, Rosemary Chan, Ling Poh Foong, and Darren Guo)
Hokkien Me by Our Company. Photo: Our Company.
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http://www.ourcompany.com.sg/productions



And while it does get slightly interesting later on, it really is more Emily Lite than anything — primarily because actor Sophie Khoo never quite embraces her character’s emotional journey completely.

It has to be said, however, that monologues are, indeed, tough. And monologues about tough women — when people only ever think of that one particular tough woman monologue — even tougher. In Hokkien Me, Khoo seemingly races from one end of the piece to the other when it’s a story that actually needs to slow down.

Having the benefit of hindsight, her character now has more leisure to tell her tale at a certain pace that suggests, well, depth and wisdom. (Besides, a few pregnant pauses here and there would have added variety in tone and tempo.)



Hokkien Me by Our Company. Photo: Our Company.
PHOTO: THREE CHILDREN & HOKKIEN ME: A DOUBLE-BILL
Genre: Theatre
Presented by Our Company
Official Venue Partner: The Arts House
Director: Luke Kwek
Writer: Leow Puay Tin
Cast: Ling Poh Fong, Darren Guo, Rosemary Chan and Mark Cheng
Hokkien Me by Our Company. Photo: Our Company.

Follow three siblings on their journey into memories of their childhood in Kappan Road, Malacca. The tangled web of relationships they navigate is confounding at first, but as the threads unravel, the powerful but subtle effects of lives discern upon lives. Like the people of Kappan Road, the three children are ordinary and poor, yet they find ways to survive their human sufferings, and surrender only to death.
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http://www.theartshouse.com.sg/Programmes/EventPage.aspx?EventID=3120



But then the somewhat perfunctory Hokkien Me gives way to the magical Three Children. Malaysian playwright Leow’s non-linear, fragmented piece with three children playing pretend at its core is rather wonderful.

The sense of fun never lets up from the moment the siblings (played by the enjoyable trio of Ling Poh Foong, Darren Guo and Rosemary Chan) ride into the forest. We’re thrown a whole bunch of different scenes, moments and stories from their village, from the outright silly to the fascinatingly morbid. The playfulness is infectious, helped by the live music from Yong Kailin and Mark Cheng (who occasionally joins the three onstage) and the constant Chinese opera touches throughout.



The one and only lovely actress of
PHOTO: Three Children & Hokkien Me: A Double-Bill
The one and only lovely actress of "Hokkien Me"... SOPHIE KHOO.
Hokkien Me by Our Company. Photo: Our Company.
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With minimal props but a whole lot of energy and enthusiasm from the performers, Three Children evokes and mirrors the magic of childhood, reflecting in its scenes the continuously shifting attention span of the always curious and easily delighted, while also embracing that vulnerable and naive side, too.

By Mayo Martin, Saturday 27 July 2013
(Three Children & Hokkien Me: A Double-Bill runs until Sunday at The Arts House. Tickets are sold out.)



Rosemary, Poh Foong, Darren
PHOTO: Three Children & Hokkien Me: A Double-Bill
A behind-the-scenes shot.
Hokkien Me by Our Company. Photo: Our Company.
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