It is no wonder Hotel is an instant hit! Although a hugely ambitious theatre production covering the different eras of Singapore, WILD RICE did an outstanding job not only with its original story-line, the directorial efforts of Ivan Heng and Glen Goei, also portrayed the stories of each era in compelling detail and unsurpassed artistic finesse, leaving audiences riveted to their seats.
The dynamic combination of narrative brilliance by Wild Rice’s resident playwright, Alifan Sa’at, and New-York trained playwright, Marcia Vanderstraaten, highlighted and emphasized Singapore’s multi-racial culture, our vast diversity in terms of language and heritage which had stemmed from the different eras and different governance this island city had succumbed to in the past decades.
The post-Japanese scene starring Sharda Harrison and Moo Siew Kay, portraying Malay comfort woman Sharifah and her lover Captain Matsuda respectively, was especially close to heart. My grandparents were survivors of the Japanese Occupation. When I told them that I wanted to pursue my studies in Japanese language in secondary school, there was furious and vehement objection. I could not understand why until I did a project on “The Rape of Nanjing” which won us a history award in school.
The Japanese Occupation was a time which most want to forget and a piece of history which the Japanese hope to re-write. Unfortunately, the truth was that innocent Chinese babies were thrown in the air and the Japanese soldiers killed them with a nudge of their bayonets. Chinese, Korean and Singaporean comfort women were forced to serve truck-loads of Japanese soldiers every day. Honest men were tortured and beheaded. Until this day, the Japanese have refused to acknowledge the atrocities which they committed during the Second World War in China, Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.
Another scene worth mentioning was the scene characterizing the separation between Singapore and Malaysia in 1965. The actors cleverly portrayed the then naive Singaporeans who were unaware of the severity of the separation between Singapore and Malaysia. In a touching speech which our then Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, delivered to all Singaporeans, he shed tears of dismal and sadness. He was ambivalent on how he could lead a resource-scarce Singapore with certainty through the decades. But he did it and we did it!
Although the scene was meant to be light and hilarious, it was also heartbreaking because Mr Lee Kuan Yew or LKY as we had affectionately known him, passed away last year. In the post-LKY era, we are also faced with the dynamic changes of economic force and nature, not to mention heightened fear of terrorism and the face of changing politics.
Wild Rice’s Hotel is a must-watch 5- hour scintillating theatre production unparalleled in art and form by any recent local productions. I am certain there will be news of a re-run next year so book your tickets early in advance as this is a WILD RICE classic is not to be missed!
Photo credits: Courtesy of W!LD RICE, photos by Albert Lim KS