Monkey Goes West by theatre company W!LD RICE sent audiences laughing all the way to Jurong West last year, and this time are back with Mama White Snake. Transforming the entire Drama Centre Theatre into Ancient China and lighting up the stage with the amazing period costumes, the show is a visual treat for the audiences.
Mama White Snake is set in Ancient China and a spin on the Chinese legend Madam White Snake. Confined within Er Mei Mountain all his life, Meng (by the charming Andrew Mark O) decides to run away from home one day to venture into the world. Meeting Mimi (by the honey-voiced Cheryl Tan) and following her back to the temple to meet her parents, Meng finds himself having to rescue his mother after realising her true form.
Bright colours and plenty of shimmer from set to personalities, I could not help but be brought back to the time when Getai (meaning Song Stage in Mandarin) was the main entertainment for the Chinese community right here in Singapore.
Set on a makeshift wooden stage by the road and chairs for any person who chooses to stay for some entertainment, the Getai used to be the go-to place for dialect songs and late-night jokes about current affairs, among other things. The constant banter and breaking of the fourth wall with the audience, a getai performer will reach out to the audience and actively connect with them – be it with a dance or a highly-popular song that every person would know.
Who would ever thought that streetside culture might ever find its way to a theatre in an age where new is always better?
The costumes by Tube Gallery by Phisit & Saxit brought out that familiar sense of nostalgia into the theatre space. From the cuts down to every sequin placed, the Peking opera-inspired costumes are exquisite. Personally, I am impressed by the level of detail and have to say that the costume helped to bring the story to life and serve as a reminder of the time and place Mama White Snake is set in.
Then there were the many uses of props as well as puppetry to move things along. One vivid example would be the moment when Madam White (by returning actor Glen Goei) turns into her true form. The person disappears and is transformed into a giant puppet snake that carried on the story.
The many tricks and novel experiences created to keep the audiences’ fascinated also brought to mind the Getai’s rojak quality – a mix and match of everything. Besides the impressive wushu skills acquired specifically for this show, the snake sisters manage a little bit of magic to charm as well. Watching mice tails wiggle out of Madam White and Auntie Green’s (by the unmistakable Ivan Heng) mouths anyone?
Not to mention the Chineseness of the songs with the erhu and Chinese percussions playing in the background.
However, it is the First Stage! kids and Martial House kids who truly stole the show this year. Armed with newly acquired martial arts skills and acting chops, the kids aged from six to 15 charmed their way into the hearts of the audience. The constant use of wushu and martial arts throughout the piece makes them a presence to be reckoned with on stage. Their excitement at carrying on their roles also become infectious as the show goes on.
Mama White Snake is a glamourised version of the local Getai, but the children are really the stars of it all – beyond the sequins and mega-polished set.
Originally written for Popspoken.