Best & Worst 2018 - Theatre

Anna Jos played Lady McBeth and Farhan Ahmed was McBeth in McBeth, a parody of Shakespeare. Malay pantomime Alkesah (top) was one of the best new musicals of the year and Leda And The Rage (above, starring Jeremiah Choy and Edith Podesta) showed how
Anna Jos played Lady McBeth and Farhan Ahmed was McBeth in McBeth, a parody of Shakespeare. Malay pantomime Alkesah (above) was one of the best new musicals of the year and Leda And The Rage showed how hard it is for a survivor of sexual assault to take back control of her life.PHOTO: DELTA FORCE IMPROV PHOTOS: CRISPIAN CHAN, COURTESY OF ESPLANADE
Anna Jos played Lady McBeth and Farhan Ahmed was McBeth in McBeth, a parody of Shakespeare. Malay pantomime Alkesah (top) was one of the best new musicals of the year and Leda And The Rage (above, starring Jeremiah Choy and Edith Podesta) showed how
Anna Jos played Lady McBeth and Farhan Ahmed was McBeth in McBeth, a parody of Shakespeare. Malay pantomime Alkesah was one of the best new musicals of the year and Leda And The Rage (above, starring Jeremiah Choy and Edith Podesta) showed how hard it is for a survivor of sexual assault to take back control of her life.PHOTO: DELTA FORCE IMPROV PHOTOS: CRISPIAN CHAN, COURTESY OF ESPLANADE
Anna Jos played Lady McBeth and Farhan Ahmed was McBeth in McBeth, a parody of Shakespeare.
Anna Jos played Lady McBeth and Farhan Ahmed was McBeth in McBeth, a parody of Shakespeare. PHOTO: DELTA FORCE IMPROV

BEST

Alkesah, Esplanade Presents: Pesta Raya - Malay Festival of Arts, Esplanade Theatre Studio, July 12 to 15

Written by Zulfadli Rashid and directed by Aidli Mosbit, Malay pantomime Alkesah was one of the best new musicals of the year.

The script drew on South-east Asian folklore, reminding viewers of the rich, diverse heritage Singaporeans are heir to.

It followed the folkloric tradition of asking hard questions of society - forgetful Pak Pandir (Hatta Said) and his exasperated wife Mak Andir (Siti Khalijah Zainal) turn into a loving couple who upend traditional gender roles, for example.

The ensemble also displayed perfect comic timing and superb vocals, with hip-shaking music from music director Elaine Chan and well-choreographed dances by Norhaizad Adam.

Shakespeare In The Park: Julius Caesar, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Fort Canning Park, May 2 to 27

Directed by London-based Guy Unsworth, this production neatly edited Shakespeare's text into a timely political thriller, showing how fake news and social media churn can stir a population to riots and bloodshed.

Jo Kukathas played the would-be despot Caesar, whose assassination leads to a bloody civil war under the aegis of rabble-rouser Mark Antony (Thomas Pang).

As news screens projected his face and tickers echoed his words, the honest truth was no match for someone who knew how to sell himself on television.

Leda And The Rage, Esplanade Presents: The Studios, Esplanade Theatre Studio, April 26 to 29

It was impossible to watch Leda And The Rage and leave untouched.

 

This two-hander written, directed and performed by Edith Podesta showed how hard it is for a survivor of sexual assault to take back control of her life and also how necessary and possible it is to reclaim her power.

The production focused on the role of language in enabling survivors to reclaim their narrative. It even added to its message by incorporating shadow interpreters who translated the play into sign language for the hearing impaired.

Podesta was brutal and anguished as an academic grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder after being raped.

Actor Jeremiah Choy was the perfect foil as her therapist, a non-threatening and essential masculine presence who created a safe space for the character to work through her distress.


WORST

McBeth, Delta Force Improv, The Projector Blue Room, May 29

This attempted parody of Shakespeare's Macbeth fell as flat and as oddly as the rubber chickens the cast threw about during the performance.

Despite being a work of improv theatre, the production directed by Phil Gruber wrongly decided to play up props and sexual jokes instead of the comic potential of the 20-strong cast.

There were a few funny moments in the show, such as when Shakespeare's text got a Singlish update, but these only underscored the wasted potential.

 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 23, 2018, with the headline 'Best & Worst 2018 - Theatre'. Print Edition | Subscribe