This May, June and July, local theatre company Wild Rice is presenting a slate of three shows at the The Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre, with Faghag (from 12th May 2022), Straight Acting (16th June – 2nd July 2022) and Don’t Call Him Mr. Mari Kita (7th – 23rd July 2022). “Wild Rice is proud to present these critically acclaimed productions, which represent the very best of Singapore theatre and deserve to be seen by as many people as possible,” says Ivan Heng, the company’s Founding Artistic Director.
After several delays and cancellations, Pam Oei will make a triumphant return to the Wild Rice stage for a full run of Faghag, her critically acclaimed one-woman show that documents her journey as an LGBTQ+ ally and activist. Featuring tales of coaxing gay boyfriends out of the closet to attending her first gay wedding, to being Pink Dot’s Countdown Queen, join Pam and maestro Julian Wong on the piano, with plenty of jokes, heartwarming anecdotes, and songs to lift your spirit.
Since the pandemic, the production faced a number of obstacles as a result of the pandemic; in July 2021, the show had to be cut short when restrictions on live performances were tightened under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). Meanwhile, a planned encore run in November 2021 was cancelled when Oei tested positive for COVID-19 a few days before the show was set to open. “Third time’s the charm,” Oei laughs. “As with everyone in Singapore and around the world, the pandemic has tried repeatedly to bring us down. What we all need now, more than ever, is love and laughter and light, which is what audiences will get with this show.”
For Oei, this restaging of Faghag remains profoundly relevant. On 28th February, Singapore’s Court of Appeal upheld Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men. “It’s evident that Singapore still has a long way to go in according our LGBTQ+ community the equality and respect they deserve,” says Oei. “Until that day, I will proudly perform Faghag and keep sharing its message of love, pride and acceptance.”
With a critically-acclaimed, sold out run last year, Thomas Lim’s Straight Acting returns for an encore run this June, with its enlightening look at what it means to be a modern family in conservative Singapore. The play introduces us to two LGBTQ+ couples who pretend to be straight in order to start a family and make a life together for the sake of a flat – but how long can they keep this under wraps from family members in the dark?
Hailed by critics and audiences alike for its honest, empathetic portrayal of the struggles faced by Singapore’s LGBTQ+ community (we said that it left a “pure sense of relief seeing how the couples have created a happy household by the end of the play, redefining what it means to be a family on their own terms”) the production also recently received two Straits Times Life! Theatre Award nominations for two members of its cast – Darren Guo (Best Actor) and Deonn Yang (Best Actress).
“I’m excited to revisit this work and try out some new ideas that I’ve had since its premiere last year,” says playwright and director Lim. “Live theatre relies so heavily on the interaction between the actors on stage and their audiences – so, this time around, I’m also thrilled by the prospect of having this show play to a full-capacity audience!”
Come July, Wild Rice will premiere Don’t Call Him Mr Mari Kita, a new musical tribute to Zubir Said – the late, great composer of Singapore’s National Anthem and beloved classics such as Semoga Bahagia. This uplifting, inspiring exploration of Singapore’s musical heritage is written and will be performed by Julian Wong, one of the country’s leading music directors. He created the show as a tribute to his teacher’s teacher – Zubir Said taught music to the late Iskandar Ismail, Wong’s mentor.
“I hope to show audiences that Zubir Said was so much more than just the composer of our National Anthem – his music, his life, his sacrifices, and the courage of his convictions are all equally noteworthy,” says Wong. “At a time of ongoing uncertainty and division, I think there is no better composer whose music can unite us.”
More than his claim to fame via Majulah Singapura, Zubir Said’s life story begins when he defied his father’s wishes and left his village in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, to settle in Singapore. Over 40 years, he became one of the pioneers of Singapore’s nascent music industry – composing close to 1,500 songs as well as countless film scores. Later in his life, Zubir Said dedicated all his energies to teaching children how to read, play and love music. With Don’t Call Him Mr Mari Kita, Wild Rice invites you to come and meet the man behind the melody we all know by heart.
The upcoming run in July will be the first time Don’t Call Him Mr. Mari Kita will be performed for the general public. The production had originally been slated to premiere in 2021, but had to be postponed and, ultimately, cancelled due to tightened pandemic restrictions. Four private performances of the show were produced to raise funds for Wild Rice. “We are so glad to finally be welcoming audiences to Don’t Call Him Mr. Mari Kita,” says Heng, who will be directing the production. “This very special show is a love letter to Singapore’s music and history, and is essential viewing for anyone who calls Singapore home.”
Faghag runs from 12th May 2022, Straight Acting runs from 16th June to 2nd July 2022, and Don’t Call Him Mr. Mari Kita runs from 7th to 23rd July 2022, all at the The Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre. More information available here