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Theatre review: Ho Tzu Nyen's Ten Thousand Tigers shows off its stripes

Published on Apr 18, 2014 4:34 AM
Ten Thousand Tigers, featuring (from far left) Rizman Putra, Sim Pern Yiau, Hiro Machida and Bani Haykal. Produced by artist and director Ho Tzu Nyen, the show explores the folklores and cosmologies surrounding the Malayan Tiger. -- PHOTO: JACK YAM, ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

So, the story goes that the Srivijayan prince Sang Nila Utama saw a lion strut through Singapore's forest at the turn of the 14th century and decided to name this island Singapura, the lion city.

Except it probably wasn't a lion, this creature with an orange body, black head and a white chest. Studies indicate that it was likely his majesty had seen a tiger instead, a predator native to this part of Southeast Asia and the subject of many a monstrous myth.

Picking up from his previous experimental outing at the Studios season, The Song Of The Brokenhearted Tiger (2012), artist and filmmaker Ho Tzu Nyen has pieced together a dramatic (and more coherent) series of dynamic dioramas that reconstructs the mythos behind the elusive tiger - feared, fought, and mistaken for another, slipping in and out of its striped skin.

Like an archivist peeling the dusty sheets from long-lost artifacts in the recesses of a museum, Ho takes a certain pride in unearthing the various tales surrounding the tiger. Whether in portraying the tiger as metaphor, supernatural creature or macabre nickname (as in the case of war criminal General Yamashita, the "Tiger of Malaya"), Ho reserves a measured reverence for this king of beasts.

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