With the Year of The Monkey coming to an end, it is only apt that W!LD RICE‘s Monkey Goes West makes a comeback after their completely sold-out run back in 2014.
This particular pantomime bagged three awards out of its seven nominations at the 2015 Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards. With awards such as Production of The Year and Production of The Year (Readers’ Choice), it is no surprise that the show is being restaged so soon.
Monkey Goes West is a loosely based spin-off from the famous Chinese classic Journey To the West. Based upon a Singaporean context, the audience goes on an adventure with Ah Tang to find his way back to Jurong West. Meeting obstacles, friends and Guan Yin Ma along his way, it is a heartwarming tale of discovery and home.
Having caught Monkey Goes West during its debut two years ago, what else can we expect? For us, we were curious about possible changes or improvements that might happen this time. After all, theatre is always about change and evolution; there is never just one way to present a piece of work.
Besides some choreography changes and Darius Tan taking over Uncle Moo/King Bull from Lim Kay Siu, most of the staging stayed true to its original form. Although a revision could have been an exciting opportunity to introduce a new take on the work, we enjoyed the show nonetheless. It was a feast for the senses, especially the sense of humour (‘Yo Mama’ jokes will never grow old if done well). We would also like to applaud how the play inserted some really recent references to surprise us with its relevance… Donald Trump, anyone?
Chua Enlai as Aunty Fanny/Princess Iron Fan and Siti Khalijah Zainal as Sandy/Guan Yin Ma really stole the show. Their grasp on comedic timings were constantly on point; never missing a beat and never missing the opportunity to earn laughs from the audience. Their presence and energy kept the show moving forward while staying true to their characters.
Generally, all the actors have developed a good chemistry with each other and that relationship can be felt on stage. Everyone was supporting one another, and the sense of complicity added to the joyfulness of the theatre experience.
However, we must say that the First Stage K!ds and Martial House kids never fail to blow us away. Their genuine spirits and skills shown off on stage easily made them the most well-loved appearances that night. Playing the ensemble and supporting roles throughout the entire play, it is impressive that they execute the choreography so well and deliver their lines with such confidence.
Indeed, they will be our future generation of performers and that is promising.
Together with an amazing live band to accompany all the songs, Monkey Goes West is a show that you will never get tired of watching. Witty, funny and a complete havoc, one cannot help but sit back in his seat and laugh along.
Originally written for Popspoken.