Fat virgins who stand the test of time

Vignettes from Three Fat Virgins Unassembled could have been plucked from the #MeToo movement.
Vignettes from Three Fat Virgins Unassembled could have been plucked from the #MeToo movement. PHOTO: JEANNIE HO

Ovidia Yu's Three Fat Virgins Unassembled, a play which debuted 27 years ago, is still relevant today

REVIEW / THEATRE

THREE FAT VIRGINS UNASSEMBLED

TheatreWorks

72-13 Home of TheatreWorks Wednesday

Some classic plays do not age well. Ovidia Yu's Three Fat Virgins Unassembled is not one of them.

Twenty-seven years after its debut, it feels just as germane today. That, actually, is depressing - that Yu's seminal feminist work should be not so much timely as timeless.

Vignettes from the play - particularly a scene of workplace sexual harassment - could have been plucked from the testimonies roiling around the #MeToo movement. Yu had already painted this picture in the 1990s; the zeitgeist has taken this long to catch up.

A sobering thought, to be sure, but this is still an uproariously funny play - from a raunchy gag about the alternative uses of cucumbers to a mother urging her daughter to cover up the "longkang" (drain) of her cleavage lest men fall into it.

  • BOOK IT / THREE FAT VIRGINS UNASSEMBLED

  • WHERE: 72-13 Home of TheatreWorks, Mohamed Sultan Road

    WHEN: Today, 7.30pm; tomorrow, 3 and 7.30pm; Sunday, 3pm

    ADMISSION: $35, $20 concessions from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: Advisory 16 (mature content). For more information, go to
    www.notordinarywork.com

Virginity in this play is not a state of the hymen, but a state of mind. The oppressed woman is a "fat virgin" - the betrayed wife, the repressed schoolteacher, the lesbian with a crush on her pregnant boss.

These various roles are played with aplomb by Chanel Chan, Munah Bagharib and Zelda Tatiana Ng on Bernice Ong's spartan white set, over which looms a round projection screen like an ominous moon.

Men are cast as oppressors with little subtlety, though this is easily overlooked when they are played by the terrific Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, who portrays faithless husbands and horny security guards with chameleonic command.

Her caricature of the middle-aged Chinese manager is side-splitting.

The play, directed by Grace Kalaiselvi, is part of TheatreWorks' female-centric N.O.W. (Not Ordinary Work) programme.

To get to the theatre, one must pass through Marylyn Tan and Zarina Muhammad's exhibition Apotropaic Texts, a richly intricate look at ritual, protective magic and taboo.

It adds another dimension to the play, one that glances at deviance - and its costs - even as it interrogates the exhausting paradox of being a woman.

Kalaiselvi keeps the play buoyant for the most part, only really letting it lean into the full weight of its burden in the last scene, in which Dorai sings a dirge as the names of women pioneers fill up the screen.

Ultimately, it invokes hope. One hopes that when its next revival rolls around, at least some of its sexism will seem dated.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2019, with the headline 'Fat virgins who stand the test of time'. Print Edition | Subscribe