Arts Preview Theatre

Preview: Happy Place by Jo Tan

Modern media, with all its buzz and excitement, can sometimes mask or alter our perception of reality. Gateway Theatre returns to stage its first commissioned production since 2019, Happy Place, examining how the media we consume can influence and impact our perceptions of society.

The satirical production is written, produced and acted by award-winning multi-hyphenate Jo Tan, known for her lead role in the internationally featured movie Tiong Bahru Social Club and her recent rise as the latest Dim Sum Dolly. Held at the Black Box in Gateway Theatre from 4th to 7th May 2023, Happy Place pits the illusory joy of frivolous entertainment against the solemnity of everyday news in an increasingly tumultuous world.

The original production centres around a fictional morning radio show called ‘The Happy Place on One One Oh Point Oh’. Val, one-half of the deejay-duo on the radio show, interviews Estee, an Instagram political poet who went viral among social media users in Singapore. The interview starts as a friendly chat but soon spirals into a heated and emotional debate on their significance and place in society. However, they avoid discussing the bigger issues surrounding the outside world—the whereabouts of the deejay’s absent partner and the mysterious cataclysm that unravels beyond the walls of their tiny studio.

With the profusion and pervasiveness of modern media, Happy Place explores the appetite of the masses for good news, its stomach for bad news, and the necessity of emollient in-betweens to inspire hope and change. This play takes a satirical look at the world in which we live, laughs at its ironies and makes us cringe at its absurdities

Priscilla Khong-Espinosa, Executive Director of Gateway Theatre, looks forward to sharing this meaningful local production with audiences. “As our society becomes increasingly fast-paced and interconnected, all of us have become used to the access of vast quantities of knowledge via the Internet. We hope that through our collaboration with Jo, this clever piece of satire will provide the audience with an alternative viewpoint to mass media, sparking debates that eventually lead to a more balanced attitude and approach to the information out there.

Jo Tan, producer, writer and lead actor of Happy Place, expressed her excitement about staging her latest production. “Modern media is a bundle of contradictions. It can bombard us with news of conflict, disaster, and social issues, but also provides easy feel-good distractions from them. I do believe there is a place for both of these—getting people to confront stark truths, as well as providing necessary escapes from life. And I hope this play can perform the same double duty — encouraging us to consider the effect of what we put into and consume from the media space; while concurrently being an entertaining and (at points) pretty funny show.”

Jo Tan stars alongside established actors Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai and Jamil Schulze. The play is also directed by theatre veteran Chong Tze Chien, who is himself an award-winning playwright, director, and arts educator. “This is ultimately a play about friendship,” comments Tze Chien.

“Alternating between reminiscing the good old days and crossing swords with each other, trading barbs as media personalities, the two friends inevitably reopen the old wounds that have derailed their friendship. As they are cleaning out the skeletons in the closet, the world outside the radio station is caught in the throes of a fiery cataclysm. I think many of us find that it is our friends who we count on in an increasingly unsettling world, and the play sheds light on that.”

Happy Place plays from 4th to 7th May 2023 at Gateway Theatre Black Box. Tickets available from BookMyShow

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