Heartfelt love letter to the stage

Leanne Ong Teck Lian in All The World Is One's Stage last Friday at the Esplanade.
Leanne Ong Teck Lian in All The World Is One's Stage last Friday at the Esplanade.PHOTO: TUCKYS PHOTOGRAPHY

THEATRE

All The World Is One's Stage

Toy Factory Productions

Huayi - Chinese Festival of Arts

Esplanade Theatre, last Friday

On a stage, eight tents sit around a smoking campfire. It is time to tell a story.

This Mandarin production, an Esplanade commission, weaves together the life stories of four Singapore stage veterans: Leanne Ong Teck Lian, Liow Shi Suen, Yong Ser Pin and Johnny Ng.

Directed by Goh Boon Teck alongside Alvin Chiam and Ric Liu, these narratives were funny, tender valentines to the stage.

The production emitted a soft, warm glow. The four spoke of their relationship with the craft of theatre - how they stumbled upon it, what kept them chugging along and how they wound up dedicating their lives to the art form.

Supporting the storytelling were four younger performers: Timothy Wan, Jodi Chan, Neo Hai Bin and Liew Li Ting.

Ong delivered a subtle, understated performance, the most memorable of the lot. She recounted how she was a slow learner who needed three hours to learn her lines when others needed only one.

Yet, immersed in her script, she felt relieved of her burdens. "When I take the stage," she declared, "I am no longer Ong Teck Lian."

Yong's and Ng's tales were peppered with moving anecdotes, as they recalled how their love for the arts was ignited amid the tough economic conditions and charged political atmosphere of Singapore's early years.

  • BOOK IT / ALL THE WORLD IS ONE'S STAGE

  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Friday to Sunday; 8pm (Friday & Saturday) and 2.30pm (Sunday)

    ADMISSION: $58 to $88 via Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: Esplanade website (bit.ly/3qCTqR5)

Although Liow's story lacked emotional depth, it provided several instances of comic relief, lightening the mood.

Behind each face in the theatre are decades of struggle and searching. These four stories faced the past with a warmth, humour and grace that could only have been derived from a lifetime on the stage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2021, with the headline 'Heartfelt love letter to the stage'. Subscribe