I had the privilege of catching the opening night of Ivan Heng’s adaptation of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s play, The Visit of the Tai-Tai.
Tonnes of spoilers ahead. You’d probably want to lock me in the coffin instead if you read this before watching the play. So don’t continue reading.
I knew you’d do it. Not for a billion dollars, surely, but for justice and equality, to right what is wrong. Surely you continued reading for every other possible reason.
The performance was generally solid, though I guess many characters had to act insincere and easily excitable, so it was difficult for me to tell. The two characters who did stand out were the Tai-Tai Claire Zachanassian herself (Ivan Heng), and the schoolteacher (Christina Sergeant) who had to make some lengthy and powerful speeches about principles.
The costumes appearances, props and sound effects were well executed. The prosthetic effects are remarkable. Ivan Heng, as always, makes a beautiful woman, in all the Tai-Tai’s costumes and wigs in a fashion reminiscent of Marie Antoinette mixed with Cruelle de Vil. The bridal gown is certainly a talking point. You will be amazed at the extra amount of ‘security’ it hides.
In the woods, the actors become the trees and wildlife. The brazen billion-heiress portrayed on stage is Cleopatra when she makes her first appearance, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Imelda Marcos and Liz Taylor rolled into one as she strides into communities with her full entourage, luggage and a panther, marries and divorces new husbands and turns the town’s moral principles upside down.
And in time, everyone turns into a Phua Chu Kang. You’ll know what I mean when you watch the play. It was a simple gesture, yet it set the alarm bells ringing.
The political digs that were made in this performance were classic.
In one scene there is a town council meeting, and everyone has to cast a vote. The mayor calls out for the opinions of the Opposition. Everyone looks around them, then shrugs their shoulders – there is no Opposition! (This was particularly cheeky since Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was the Guest of Honour this evening.)
The police officer’s name was Anwar. However I failed to notice any further innuendos associated with that character.
The sleepy town also has its own tourism promotion slogan – Uniquely Saitun. Only people in Singapore will get this joke, unless you are a tourist to our fair country.
In the end scene, when the sleepy town is rejuvenated with a high inflow of cash, the props come down – a huge cheque, and in the backdrop – a Casino!
We had good pre- and post-performance cocktail receptions. Ivan and the rest of the cast appeared in full costume after the performance, to rapturous applause. It was a night for black humour – morbid, warped, but a worthy performance nonetheless.
For more information, visit Wild Rice Productions.
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