Review: Innamorati 2 by Toy Factory [23/9/16]
Innamorati Two was written by Jiang Daini, the same playwright as its predecessor, and has not disappointed, after she promised something amazing in our interview with her in June. The musical was directed by Toy Factory head Goh Boon Teck, with music masterfully directed by Elaine Chan. Toy Factory has been particularly coy with the storyline of the musical in the weeks leading up to its premiere. We’ve just come back from it, and can tell you it’s one of the finest examples of local Mandarin theatre Singapore has to offer.
Innamorati Two follows a diverse group of literally colourful characters (you can’t miss their spectrum of anime character-like hair), all of which are burdened with some kind of imperfection or problem. The musical opens with a spotlight on An An (Stella Seah), an amnesiac writer who weaves for the audience a mythical tale of the town of Lolilok. In the main square stands a barter shop operated by autistic shopkeeper Xiao Zhi (Wong Jing Lun) and his sister Ai Mei Li (Chriz Tong). Over the course of the briskly paced 90 minute script, we’re also introduced to Xiao Yu (Ann Lek), an artist with deteriorating eyesight, Ah Gu (Sugie Phua), a guitar wielding backpacker travelling the world to fulfil the last wishes of his deceased girlfriend, Ma Li (Jack Chew), an analgesic clown with a troubled family history, and Da Lu (Sunny Yang), a dancer suffering from a hearing problem, affecting her sense of rhythm.
It all sounds very dark and gloomy, but conversely, Innamorati Two is the kind of musical that will have you leaving the theatre with a renewed sense of hope and strength. Xiao Zhi and Mei Li’s barter shop are integral to this, and act as the medium for the other characters to realise that sometimes to move on, you have to let go. Ah Gu, for example, has his backpack stolen midway through the play, metaphorically symbolising him losing all the experiences he’s gained over his travels. But when he meets Xiao Yu, he’s convinced that there’s more to life when he trades in an item of value (we won’t spoil it for you) to get her a Walkman, so she can still listen to and appreciate music with her ears even as her eyesight fades.
It also helps of course, that the actors have fantastic chemistry with each other, particularly between Wong Jing Lun and Chriz Tong as the brother-sister pair operating the shop. Their relationship is absolutely believable and had us thinking of our own siblings and the care they’ve shown for us, and the inevitable need to eventually let them go and become their own person.
Kudos also goes to Tai Zi Feng’s smart and sharp set and lighting design, which though simple and minimalist for a musical, was very much on the nose. For example, when An An begins to tell her tale, a void at the back of the stage ends up becoming a portal for the characters in her story to come to life. We were also in love with the barter shop, which looks like it could be something straight out of a Muji catalogue, and was the perfect backdrop that helped bring out the bare emotions the musical sought to deliver to the audience.
Innamorati Two features a twist ending that ties the entire musical together, but we won’t spoil it for you; you’ll have to come see it for yourself! Overall, this is one of the best local works we’ve seen, with plenty of heart and soul that bursts through in every song. We definitely recommend coming down for Innamorati Two, which could very well give even Broadway and West End shows a run for their money, and goes to show that our local theatre companies are just as full of talent as anywhere else.
Innamorati Two runs till 2 October at the Drama Centre, performed in Mandarin with English surtitles. Tickets will be available via SISTIC.