One of the worst shows I have ever attended was a play put up in a gigantic school hall at a primary school somewhere in Jurong. It was bad not for its aesthetics, but for the total unsuitability of a school hall as a performance venue for a play, with its open doors, horrible acoustics and the impossibility of seeing and hearing anything clearly for those students sitting further back. That performance alone probably turned off a few hundred young children off from theatre. Imagine that repeated in one school hall after another. But under the numbers game played by the government, it would have been recorded as so many students being ‘exposed’ to the arts.
Contrast this with a puppetry play I saw recently at the Esplanade. Called “Samsui Women: One Brick at a Time” and put up by The Finger Players (Singapore). The restaging of a 2015 show is a simple yet engaging tale of two girls growing up in China and then making the long and dangerous journey to Singapore to become construction workers. And it is performed in a proper theatre by the talented Myra Loke, Jasmine Xie, Zee Wong and Darren Guo. I particularly like the feminist take and how the story neatly intertwines with the Bukit Ho Swee fire.
I don’t think I had as much fun as the full house of young ones in the audience from Opera Estate Primary School. I guess the feedback they gave (left column for what they felt before and right column for after the show) speaks for itself. I bet some of them will be part of our future theatre audience.
Look out for hints of a future MDA employee and the one about the happy cardboard collectors doing it as a form of exercise.