Drama Box’s Chinatown Crossings was straight up one of our favourite productions of 2018, impressing us with its unusual staging style as audience members were taken on an immersive tour through the eponymous district, and winning Best Immersive Theatre Production and Best Ensemble at our inaugural Bakchormeeboy Theatre Awards. Conceptualized and scripted by Koh Hui Ling and Jean Tay, the production was a surprise at every turn, consistently surprising us by how effectively it peeled back the layers of the much maligned ‘tourist trap’ to showcase the history and presence of real people and real stories encased in its heritage buildings and the streets we walked. Filled with facts cleverly interweaved into an emotional narrative based off real people who lived in Chinatown, Chinatown Crossings is a must watch, and we’re glad it completely sold out its run last year.
For those who weren’t lucky enough to snag tickets though, tickets go on sale this evening, with 200 or so tickets up for purchase when Chinatown Crossings returns this June for a restaging, and we absolutely recommend you catch it if you get the chance to. Why exactly was it so popular? Chinatown Crossings Managing Producer Woo Hsia Ling comments: “I think there’s a hunger amongst both locals and foreign visitors for unconventional theatrical experiences, and for authentic, lesser-known and cultural heritage-related stories that are presented in a different format from what they are used to. The depth of layers in the story and relationships between the characters are compelling and touching, while the audiences are also able to connect not just emotionally but also physically to the piece with it being site-specific and evoking senses of smell, taste, sight, sounds and touch. These, along with the themes of home, displacement, inevitable changes, love and loss, I believe are what resonated well with the audiences.”
She continues: “One of the challenges we have been navigating is making sure we are building authentic relationships with our community partners while at the same time persuading them to let us use their spaces and/or participate in the production for another extended period this year. We try to make sure that the production affects their business and/or personal and family time and space as little as possible. After some deliberation, one of our senior community partners decided that they preferred to take a break and we respected that. We are thankful to have found another community partner for this year’s production.”
Even for those who’ve caught the show before, there’s plenty of value in returning to catch it again, with minor tweaks to the script and an overall tightening of the entire production. Says Chinatown Crossings Marketing Manager Derrick Chew: “Chinatown Crossings now runs at about 2 hours, instead of the 2.5 hours it did in 2018. Jean (Tay) has edited the script and strengthened the plot more now, and the route which audience members walk has changed too, with a different ending place. I’d also say that the actors have even stronger chemistry now, and we’ve now got a new actress on board – Wendi Wee Hian, replacing Sabrina Sng in the role of Ting Ting.”
“People who haven’t seen the show, should see the show. Whether they’re Singaporean or not, Chinese or Malay or Indian, it’s an extremely accessible work of history and memory, celebrating Singaporean culture, not just Chinese culture, showcasing the diversity of lives that existed across both Chinatown and Kreta Ayer,” he adds. “And it’s a show you can and will enjoy each time you come see it, a different experience every night depending on how the surroundings change and the mood in the air each show, so even people who’ve caught it last year will find that there’s plenty to take away from a second go at the show.”
It’s likely that it’ll be a while before Chinatown Crossings receives another restaging after this round in June, so it’s absolutely recommended you get your tickets while they’re still available, or miss the chance to catch this seminal piece of Singaporean theatre for the foreseeable future. If anything, we assure you that it’s a transformative experience, bringing together the very best aspects of Drama Box’s penchant for shows that present strong acting, a gripping narrative, and design elements that complete the production. Watch Chinatown Crossings to see the area as you’ve never seen it before, to discover the back alleys and historic buildings and temples that line the place, and fall in love with it, one step at a time.
Photo Credit: Drama Box
Chinatown Crossings plays from 6th June to 13th July 2019 at Chinatown (meet outside Chinatown Heritage Centre at 48 Pagoda Street, Singapore 059207). For more information, visit their website here Limited tickets available from Peatix