Plenty of talk has been made about matters regarding LGBTQ recently, with the passing of law in Taiwan (huge congratulations!), change in regulations for our local Pink Dot as well as the continuous discrimination that we continue to fight against everyday. With this, TANGO produced by Pangdemonium could not have chosen a better time to make its debut on stage.
Written by local playwright Joel Tan and directed by Tracie Pang, this particular piece of work is inspired by the blog 4 Relative Strangers by James D Williams. The play follows the journey of gay couple Singapore-born banker Kenneth and his British husband teacher Liam after adopting their son Jayden. Everything begins to unfold and challenges have to be faced when the couple moves from suburban London to Singapore. Reconnecting with an old father and coincidental connections from the most unlikely places, we witness the birth of blossoming love as well as old wounds reopening. Would this family be able to stay and put up with various obstacles coming their way?
The script asks urgent and increasingly relevant questions to the audience, about the evolving climate of challenges faced by the community. Besides that, it portrays an accurate situation of what individuals go through in their every day life because of their sexuality. Even though the presentation of the script may have made it feel preachy and flat, it is a powerful piece of text and something we have to recognise as a force of positive change.
The set design by Wai Yin Kwok is simple and captivating. Consisting of stairs in all directions and specific platforms to distinguish different spaces left a lot of freedom to the actors to bring the audience into this imaginative space. I particularly enjoyed having stairs all around the performance area – provides a sense of never-ending obstacles, the cyclical nature of the topic at hand and how you have to keep moving from one space to another. It is also clever to have projection shone onto the set itself to let it transform and view it from different perspectives.
The actors played out the subtleties and nuances of their characters well. The chemistry between Koh Boon Pin as Kenneth, Emil Marwa as Liam as well as Lim Kay Siu as Kenneth’s dad, Richard shared great scenes of tug-of-war intensity and the meaning of what it means to be family – chosen or not. Dylan Jenkins as Jayden played up his boyish charms, Ruzaini Mazani as Zul and Benjamin Chow as Benmin were funny and provided comic relieve in more moments than one. However, sometimes the use of voice stayed on a shouting and tension too often, and that unfortunately let certain build ups lack depth and flattened them out.
Karen Tan as Elaine was a true surprise, and pleasant to watch. Her presence and the character she played had a clear trajectory from start to finish. Her strength and moments of wisdom through sharing brought out the sense of resilience in the entire show. Lok Meng Chue as the palace kitchen staff Poh Lin, who started the whole drama, was lovely and a breath of fresh air. I appreciated how she gave her character a purpose, a backstory and that gave the audience plenty to think about. Her ability to bring to life a wholesome character was a gift to watch.
TANGO is a show about diversity, but more than that, it gives us perspectives beyond struggles but also a glimpse of discrimination and the many aspects behind it. This is a story that is not as simple as it looks, and is worth a watch.
Originally written for Popspoken.