Theatre review: Sad that the classic play, Three Fat Virgins Unassembled, is timely and not just timeless

Vignettes from Three Fat Virgins Unassembled - particularly a scene of workplace sexual harassment - could have been plucked from the testimonies roiling around the #MeToo movement. PHOTO: JEANNIE HO




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.

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.


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

    WHEN: Friday (July 12) 7.30pm; Saturday, 3 and 7.30pm; Sunday, 3pm

    ADMISSION: $35, $20 concessions from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to

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

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.

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