MDA takes big bite out of Chestnuts 50

Chestnuts delivers what fans have come to expect: digs at the past year's headlines. PHOTO: STAGES

Chestnuts 50: The UnbelYeevable Jubilee Edition by Stages

Drama Centre Theatre

Sept 18

There is something hollow about this edition of annual parody show Chestnuts, but it is not the fault of writer-director Jonathan Lim or his versatile cast and crew.

Lim and returning cast Judee Tan and Dwayne Lau continue to impress with their vivacious vocals and high-octane performances. Newcomers Joshua Lim and Faizal Abdullah are equally unforgettable as the script sends them smoothly from scenes of comedy to tear-jerking pathos.

We even get to see real magic on stage in a sketch poking fun at mega-churches and the infamous father-daughter act of Lawrence and Priscilla Khong, who proselytise through acts of illusion.

Chestnuts delivers what fans have come to expect: the digs at the past year's headlines, from Jubilee celebrations to the narrow corridors of the HDB blocks at Pasir Ris created under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme.

There are the expected hyper-sexual jokes that have us groundlings howling and then the breathtaking volte-face as the men and woman on stage switch seamlessly into serious mode.

Tears of laughter turn into inheld breaths at the sweetness of the acapella vocals paying tribute to the late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Alongside the usual spoof round-up of the year's plays is a sensitive recreation of iconic lines from 50 years of Singapore theatre - inspired by The Studios: Fifty staging of these works earlier this year at the Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay - and by itself worth the price of admission.

Comedy can be the conscience of a country and its fun-house mirror, allowing viewers to either reconcile with their flaws through laughter or vow to do better in the future. Chestnuts has taken its role of jester more seriously over the years. The 2013 edition juxtaposed the angst of downtrodden French citizenry in Les Miserables with the protests in Singapore over the population White Paper; an earlier edition, iChestnuts15, summarised the entire course of the 2011 General Election in a few unforgettable musical stand-offs.

Walking into Chestnuts 50: The UnbelYeevable Jubilee Edition, one was expecting more about the recently concluded General Election and other important headlines such as the arrest and imprisonment of teen blogger Amos Yee for his video posts challenging the Lee legacy and allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

Towards the end of the 150-minute show, Lim explains that he and his cohorts were told just hours before the opening show on Thursday by the Media Development Authority to excise about 40 minutes of a central sketch inspired by Yee or forfeit the arts entertainment licence.

Lim holds out hope that he might be allowed to reintroduce the sketch before Chestnuts 50 ends its run on Sept 27.

book it

WHERE: Drama Centre Theatre, Level 3, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street

WHEN: Runs till Sept 27 with 8pm shows Tuesdays to Sundays and additional 3pm shows on Saturdays and Sundays

ADMISSION: $45, $55, $65 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to


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