Local theatre company W!LD RICE brings the year of the monkey to a joyful close with the second run of Monkey Goes West, a Chinese classic told in the form of a British pantomime. Adapted seamlessly into a Singaporean setting, the play took us from a typical HDB flat in Jurong West to Haw Par Villa, and ancient China.
As part of the pantomime tradition, Monkey Goes West incorporated elements of cross-dressing, ageless theatre and juvenile actors and actresses.
The evil Princess Iron Fan was played by renowned actor Chua En Lai , while talented Frances Lee took on the role of the comical and well-loved Pigsy.
The pantomime opened with a scene in “Heaven”, where Wu Kong, The Monkey King, was sentenced to 500 years of punishment under a mountain.
We were then introduced to 15-year-old Ah Tang, who left home as he was frustrated with his adoptive family. As an orphan, he often felt that he amounted to nothing as compared to his over-achieving, bratty stepsister.
At this point, the audience was treated to Ah Tang’s (Joshua Lim) strong vocals as he sang “Hero For A Day”, a moving and relatable number that no doubt touched the hearts of everyone.
After Ah Tang released Wu Kong from the mountain where he was trapped, he found himself talking to a strange monkey who called him Master. The two set off on a wild adventure in a foreign land, and later became acquainted with Pigsy when Wu Kong saved his miserable bride from his clutches.
Pigsy joined them on their journey to the West and so did Sandy, a stubborn but loyal sea warrior who was persuaded to help the trio when she heard that Ah Tang could help her leave the sea and live on land.
Together, the foursome experienced the wrath of the fire-breathing Red Boy and his parents, Princess Iron Fan and King Bull. They had to defeat the Red Boy and acquire the iron fan in order to complete their journey to the West.
The set was well-designed, with hints of Chinese architecture in the pillars of the Heaven scene. Haw Par Villa and the HDB flat were also accurately depicted on set.
Chua En Lai, who plays the cunning Princess Iron Fan, consistently mispronounced words, which sent the audience into fits of laughter – abusement park instead of amusement park, flamingo instead of flamenco, and hilarylarious were among my favourites.
The cast was certainly a talented bunch and engaged both the young and old in the audience. When Wu Kong (Sugie Phua) broke into “Master of Disguise”, it was as though the stage had transformed into a scene from a rock concert— Sugie got the crowd rocking along to his stellar performance and impressed us with his amazing vocals.
As the pantomime drew to an end, the four friends burst into “Sum of All Our Parts”, a number that tugged at everyone’s heartstrings and appealed to children and adults alike. We were all reminded of a mother’s undying love at the final scene, and I found myself struggling to hold back tears. I’m sure most of the audience shared my sentiments.
Monkey Goes West is a reminder that there is a greedy Pigsy, stubborn Sandy and mischievous Wu Kong in all of us— we just need to look hard enough to discover them.
The pantomime runs from 18 Nov-17 Dec. Ticket prices start at $50.
Reviewer: Natalie Danielle