MDA on cuts to Chestnuts 50: script was sent in late

The Media Development Authority Singapore says the script for Chestnuts 50 was sent in late so "several problematic segments concerning an ongoing court case" could not be processed in time.
The Media Development Authority Singapore says the script for Chestnuts 50 was sent in late so "several problematic segments concerning an ongoing court case" could not be processed in time. PHOTO: STAGES

The Media Development Authority Singapore says the script for Chestnuts 50 was sent in late so "several problematic segments concerning an ongoing court case" could not be processed in time.

It was responding to writer-director Jonathan Lim's sketch parody show showing at the Drama Centre Theatre until Sept 27.

Last Friday, the show ended with Lim saying his team was told just hours before the opening show a day earlier to remove about 40 minutes of a central sketch inspired by the case of teen blogger Amos Yee, or forfeit their arts entertainment licence.

Pre-show publicity before the licence was issued included an article in Today which made it clear the highlight of the performance - subtitled The UnbelYeevable Jubilee Edition - would be a musical about the 16-year-old. Yee was tried and found guilty earlier this year of making remarks intending to hurt the feelings of Christians in a video and of uploading an obscene image.

 

Facebook teasers and publicity photos for Chestnuts 50 also showed cast member Joshua Lim made up in a wig and glasses unmistakeably similar to Yee's hair and style.

MDA issued a statement yesterday saying: "MDA only received the final script for Chestnuts 50 on 4 Sep. Despite the late application, we processed the content expeditiously. There were however several problematic segments concerning an ongoing court case which could not be processed in time. After Artsolute dropped the segment, MDA issued a license for the rest of the performance to proceed."

The script was received just less than two weeks before the opening night, when guidelines for the licence application on MDA's website say submissions for the licence should be made at least two months before the day of the event.

A spokesman for the show's producer, Artsolute, says that "the MDA team has been absolutely cooperative and supportive of our work and the nature of our work, and have been for the many years Chestnuts has been around".

"They continue to help make the show happen in spite of our late scripts, which is also the nature of shows that talk about and reflect current affairs".

The Chestnuts team's signature style is mashing up recent headlines with popular musical numbers. The show has a history of presenting political parody, with the 2013 edition Chestnuts 6.9: The Less Miserable White Paper revolving around the outcry that year over the unpopular 6.9 million population projection in a recent White Paper. Two years before that, iChestnuts15 took on the 2011 General Election.

Speaking to Life, Lim says he was surprised by the reason MDA gave to cut the Yee sketch, since another segment referencing an ongoing court case was passed. The current Chestnuts 50 performance includes a part inspired by the City Harvest mega-church case, where its founder and five others are alleged to have misused church funds.

Lim says the Amos Yee sketch would have ended both halves of the show, which is typically nearly three hours long but lasted less than 150 minutes last Friday.

He has not lost hope that he might be allowed to perform the sketch some day but says what is most important to him right now is that Chestnuts 50 finishes its run.

akshitan@sph.com.sg