Monkey Goes West and Art make history at Life! Theatre Awards

They jointly clinch Production of the Year prize at Life! Theatre Awards

For the first time in the 15-year history of the Life! Theatre Awards, there was a tie for the top honour of Production of the Year.

It jointly went to: Wild Rice's Monkey Goes West, a humorous musical spin on the Chinese classic Journey To The West; and Nine Years Theatre's Art, a Mandarin translation of French playwright Yasmina Reza's play about three friends debating over what makes art.

The ceremony for what is now known as the M1-The Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards took place yesterday at the Esplanade Recital Studio.

The theatre community gathered to honour the best of the local stage. The event, held in collaboration with the Esplanade, was graced by National Arts Council chairman Chan Heng Chee, Esplanade CEO Benson Puah and Mrs Rosa Daniel, Deputy Secretary (Culture) at the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

In a speech at the ceremony, The Straits Times' Life! editor Helen Chia said: "Today, we celebrate 15 years of Life! Theatre Awards, but actually the history of Singapore theatre goes back much further than that."

She paid tribute to pioneers of local theatre such as playwright Robert Yeo, theatre practitioner and educator T. Sasitharan and director Max Le Blond. Some of the stalwarts, such as The Necessary Stage artistic director Alvin Tan, were there to present awards, while Yeo was an invited guest.

Tan presented the Best Director award to Nelson Chia for Art, which also picked up a Best Actor nod for Peter Sau.

Monkey Goes West also won Best Costume Design and Production of the Year (Readers' Choice) - decided by online public voting.

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Said its director Sebastian Tan later of the joint win: "It's great because there are so many productions in a year, and it's so difficult to say who the winner is because, frankly, they're all quite different. Some are plays, some are musicals, so how do you judge?

"I think to be able to share this award with another play, which I like as well,is wonderful."

Nine Years Theatre founding company director Mia Chee was similarly effusive about Monkey Goes West. "It was the first time that I've seen (actor) Sebastian Tan direct, and I was delighted to see his work. I thought it had very good pacing and rhythm, and the pantomime was quite sharp."

Jo Kukathas took the Best Supporting Actress gong for her work in Wild Rice's The House Of Bernarda Alba, while Remesh Panicker won Best Supporting Actor for his turn as Shylock in the Singapore Repertory Theatre's The Merchant Of Venice. The Best Actress accolade went to Mina Kaye, for her role as vocal powerhouse Little Voice in Pangdemonium's The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice.

This year's awards were judged by a six-member panel comprising Lasalle College of the Arts provost Venka Purushothaman; online arts journal The Flying Inkpot co-editors Kenneth Kwok and Matthew Lyon; as well as arts reviewers Helmi Yusof, Tang Hwa Kwee and Corrie Tan from The Business Times, Lianhe Zaobao and The Straits Times.

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