Singapore Theatre Festival: Pamela Oei is a rainbow riot in Faghag

Pam Oei performing in Faghag, which is a part sketch comedy, part musical revue with full of eye-popping colours.
Pam Oei performing in Faghag, which is a part sketch comedy, part musical revue with full of eye-popping colours. PHOTO: W!LD RICE

REVIEW/THEATRE

FAGHAG

Singapore Theatre Festival

Flexible Performance Space, Lasalle College of the Arts

Pam Oei has always been out, loud and fabulously proud as a fag hag - a term used for a woman with gay male friends - and this show shows yet again that she means business as a champion of queer rights.

Faghag is part sketch comedy, part musical revue, full of eye-popping colours and rapid costume changes. The show directed by Ivan Heng takes viewers through Oei's childhood crushes on gay men (she dons pigtails and school uniform to howls of laughter), closeted boyfriends (who look better in dresses than she did) and on a more sobering note, her ongoing campaign for the repeal of Section 377A in Singapore's penal code, which criminalises consensual sex between adult men.

Vocal activism is balanced by top-quality vocals. We hear gay anthem I Am What I Am from La Cage Aux Folles, channelling her pride in her friends. The wistful ballad of star-crossed love, We Kiss In The Shadow, from The King And I, expresses her shared sorrow that romantic affection between men is considered unnatural and illegal.

A riotous reworking of the Raffles Junior College anthem channels her teenage hormonal angst - "boys, boys, boys! Pimple!" - and turns reflective. She asks the audience to think of how difficult life must be for gay teenagers, if straight teens have it this bad.

The presence of accompanist and fellow performer Julian Wong underscores the importance of acceptance and equality. Oei was the second adult Wong came out to as a teen, as revealed in one of the most heartwarming sketches. The first mentor he came outto cut him off entirely. It is left unsaid what might have happened had he not met supportive adults.

The show closed on Sunday, a day after Oei volunteered again at the 10th edition of Pink Dot, an annual gathering of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in Singapore and their allies. Before filing in to the performance space, viewers were offered a pink filter to turn their smartphones into torches to recreate the atmosphere of Pink Dot.

As the pink glow faded, she appeared in unicorn costume against a starry multimedia background. She then stripped it off, reminding viewers that dreams are all very well but real change is still to happen.

It was a bravura performance from Oei at her flamboyant best as stand-up comic, singer and dress-up diva. It was a declaration that the voices of the so-called minority are not going to be silenced.