Arts Picks: The Golden Knot podcast, art at void decks, revamped Reflections at Bukit Chandu

PHOTO: NATIONAL GALLERY SINGAPORE

The Golden Knot

This atmospheric podcast features a great line-up of familiar theatre talents, including Claire Wong, Fanny Kee and R. Chandran.

Mei, played by Wong, is a seamstress specialising in making cheongsam in 1960s Kuala Lumpur. Her niece is found murdered and she decides to track down the killer.

Written by Elena Yeo and co-directed by film-maker Wee Li-Lin, The Golden Knot takes its time setting up the scenario, with an opening scene of workers speaking in Malay discovering a body in a storm drain.

There is an intimacy in listening to an audio drama and the local accents here are immediately engaging, aided by the nuanced delivery of the actors. Veteran actress Wong switches effortlessly from authoritative narrator to the character of Mei, who goes from businesslike tailor to concerned aunt.

The only complaint is that this is only a pilot, not yet a full series. It is one of 10 finalists for Audible's Accelerator programme, supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

The other finalists include a few with familiar theatre names too. Singaporean Six, a home-grown take on The Habitat documentary podcast, features Oon Shu Ann and Tay Kewei.

Possession, which includes Lim Yu-Beng and Adrian Pang in the cast, sets up a promisingly creepy tale about a disintegrating marriage with supernatural elements.

Those who prefer lighter options can check out Happy Endings, a hilariously foulmouthed comedy about a young Chinese American woman sent on a love cruise by her anxious parents; and Love Shop, a slightly more wholesome comedy about a woman who inherits her late parents' ramshackle matchmaking agency.


PHOTO: AUDIBLE

Where: audible.com
Price: Monthly subscription at US$7.95 (S$10.80) or US$14.95
Info: Audible website


The People's Gallery

The People's Gallery tries to bridge physical and aesthetic gaps by using augmented reality (AR) technology. This project by the National Gallery Singapore puts 10 QR codes at more than 25 void decks in eight heartland neighbourhoods.

Scan the code with your phone and you are taken to a website where the artwork pops up. Some pieces are accompanied by the Gallery's YouTube series, Art In 90 Seconds - a nice way to integrate the Gallery's multimedia resources - while other works feature only brief text captions.

The selection is commendably diverse at the Toa Payoh display I visited. It includes works by Singaporeans Cheong Soo Pieng and Anthony Poon, Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong and Filipino artist Jose Tence Ruiz.

But the technical interface can be improved. One QR code is particularly hard to scan, which I suspect is because of the reflections on the laminated surface.

It is also annoying when the artwork is in landscape mode, but the interface throws up a message window, which cannot be closed, advising one to use only portrait mode. This means I cannot zoom in to see the details on Chua Mia Tee's Workers In A Canteen or Ismail Zain's From There To Now - both landscape works which appear tiny on a mobile phone screen.

Hopefully, the technical hiccups will inspire people to head to the Gallery to see the real thing.

Where: Eight neighbourhoods including Bishan, Marine Parade and Yishun
When: Till end November
Admission: Free
Info: National Gallery website


Reflections At Bukit Chandu


ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

This is another World War II heritage centre that has been buffed up and reopened recently, after the Changi Chapel and Museum.

There are the inevitable multimedia elements which, in this case, has a couple of gems. Footage of Second Lieutenant Adnan Saidi drilling his troops, believed to be the only surviving film record of this hero; and a very moving, if short, archival interview with Lieutenant Abbas Abdul Mana, the only surviving officer from the battle of Bukit Chandu on Feb 14, 1942.

Even after all these years, Lieutenant Abbas' frustration at the British surrender is still palpable.

There is also a nice tribute wall listing the members of the Malay Regiment who fought and died, with the famous bronze bust of Lieutenant Adnan taking pride of place in the room.


A bronze bust of Second Lieutenant Adnan Saidi at Reflections at Bukit Chandu. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The second floor focuses on the site's history as an opium processing plant, which gives the place context, but unfortunately, detracts from the story of the Malay Regiment.

More could be done to highlight other members of the Malay Regiment as well as to examine Lieutenant Adnan's place in Malayan pop culture, given his mythologisation as hero in films and television series.

Where: 31-K Pepys Road MRT Pasir Panjang
When: Ongoing, Tuesdays to Sundays, 9.30am to 5pm (last admission at 4.30pm)
Admission: Free for Singapore citizens and permanent residents
Info: National Heritage Board website