Ong Sor Fern Senior Culture Correspondent recommends

Arts Picks: Dragonflies

Dragonflies.
Dragonflies.PHOTOS: CRISPIAN CHAN, THE NECESSARY STAGE, ROYAL NATIONAL THEATRE IN LONDON, THE ARTS HOUSE
Ralph Fiennes as Antony and the incomparable Sophie Okonedo as Cleopatra.
Ralph Fiennes as Antony and the incomparable Sophie Okonedo as Cleopatra.
Siti Khalijah Zainal in Rosnah.
Siti Khalijah Zainal in Rosnah.
Desmond Kon.
Desmond Kon.
Gwee Li Sui.
Gwee Li Sui.
Singapore Literature Prize winner Melissa De Silva.
Singapore Literature Prize winner Melissa De Silva.

DRAGONFLIES

This 2017 play by Britain-based, Singapore-born Stephanie Street about economic migrants won four The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards, including Production of the Year.

And its story about how easily migrants can be displaced has special resonance today, as borders close and xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore and around the world as a result of the coronavirus.

Set in 2021, the play follows a Singaporean (Adrian Pang) who is forced to sell his British home after the death of his British wife. He returns to Singapore, where a comfortable lifestyle is enabled by foreign labour and a riot in a market upsets the family routine.

The work is characteristic of Pangdemonium's winning formula of slick production values and thought-provoking theatre fare. And it seems eerily prescient today, in the way all good art is.

The company is streaming this work, first staged at the Singapore International Festival of Arts, for free on Vimeo. Follow the company on Facebook (str.sg/JQmL) for more announcements about productions it is streaming.

WHERE: Watch it at str.sg/JQmb WHEN: May 8 to 14 ADMISSION: Free


ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA

This blockbuster stage version of Shakespeare's play stars Ralph Fiennes as Antony and the incomparable Sophie Okonedo as Cleopatra.

Fair warning: It runs for more than three hours. Nonetheless, it is well worth the time.

Fiennes plays Antony as a war-weary, slightly gone-to-seed veteran who wants nothing more than to retire to the louche life in the warm embrace of Egypt and Cleopatra.

Okonedo, who is fearless in tackling problematic Shakespearean women, relishes playing up the selfish, manipulative side of the famed Egyptian beauty.

The dynamic between these two stellar actors is electric, which also means the pace tends to sag when they are offstage. I was lucky enough to catch the performance at the National Theatre in London in 2018, and can testify to the chemistry and wobbly pacing in the live show.

The rotating set is a theatrical marvel, changing from a brilliant Mediterranean-style turquoise wading pool to a majestic submarine conning tower that rises up spectacularly from the floor.

WHERE: Watch it at str.sg/JMnp


ROSNAH

This 2016 restaging of playwright Haresh Sharma's 1995 play tells the story of Rosnah, a Singapore Malay-Muslim woman who leaves home to study in London. The clash of traditional and Western values forces her to re-examine her belief system.

This version, performed in Malay, is translated by Aidli "Alin" Mosbit, who played the title role in the original version. The script, devised by Sharma in collaboration with Aidli, is an actor's dream. Siti Khalijah Zainal commands the stage effortlessly in the title role.

Musician Bani Haykal offers beautiful live music accompaniment, at times drumming and bowing his guitar for unusual effects.

While the script has been lightly updated, some of the pop references are quaintly dated (the mentions of American singer Michael Bolton will be lost on Gen Zs).

But Rosnah is still relevant for the way it shines a light on the cultural and social burdens carried by a modern Malay-Muslim woman, and makes for thoughtful viewing.

WHERE: Watch it at str.sg/JQQg ADMISSION: Free until May 25


WRITE FROM HOME WORKSHOPS

Pick up some skills while you work from home with The Arts House's Write From Home workshops.

The sessions will be conducted by writers Desmond Kon, Gwee Li Sui and Singapore Literature Prize winner Melissa De Silva.

Kon will focus on Creativity Under Constraint: Finding Peace In Isolation, while Gwee addresses humour in Funny Not Funny: Writing Humour.

De Silva's three-session workshop - Step Inside: Documenting Our Interior Journey In An Unusual Time - will be a deep dive into, among other things, personal experiences during the coronavirus pandemic.

Each workshop will run on video-conferencing platform Zoom.

WHEN: Tomorrow, May 14, 16 & 23, various times ADMISSION: From $10 INFO: str.sg/JQQ6

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2020, with the headline 'Arts Picks'. Subscribe