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No language barrier

SINGAPORE — The gala premiere of Chinglish at the Drama Centre Theatre was a full house of hearty theatre-goers evidently impressed by Pangdemonium’s latest production. Directed by the local theatre company’s co-artistic director Tracie Pang, the crowd-pleaser is based on David Henry Hwang’s multi-award-winning play of the same name.

No language barrier

MediaCorp artiste Guo Liang (left) makes his Singapore theatre debut in Chinglish.

SINGAPORE — The gala premiere of Chinglish at the Drama Centre Theatre was a full house of hearty theatre-goers evidently impressed by Pangdemonium’s latest production. Directed by the local theatre company’s co-artistic director Tracie Pang, the crowd-pleaser is based on David Henry Hwang’s multi-award-winning play of the same name.

A modern comedy addressing hilarious miscommunications stemming from the clash of different cultures, values and philosophies, Chinglish is a bilingual play performed in English and Mandarin, with subtitles for non-Chinese speakers.

However, if you are comfortable with both languages, you will definitely find Chinglish a lot funnier. The cast of Chinglish is a strong one, with well-loved Mediacorp artiste Guo Liang making his Singapore theatre debut and star of Titoudao, Audrey Luo, stealing the show with her side-splitting impressions of three different but all impossibly bad Chinese business translators in their element.

Guo and Luo’s accents and dictions were impressively spot-on in comparison to Adrian Pang and Oon Shu An’s, whose delivery in Mandarin felt slightly less authentic but by no means unbelievable.

Pang, who previously admitted he failed his A-Level Chinese as a student, completely nailed it with his accurate depiction of a typical Chinaman “speaking” on his mobile phone in a performance that would surely make his former teachers proud. Oon, meanwhile, decked in classy high heels and elegant dresses, added grace and poise to the show and has ostensibly perfected that cool aloofness of a Chinese femme fatale.

Award-winning actor Matt Grey won the crowd over with his many lines of fluent Mandarin, specially learnt for the production. Daniel Jenkins, another accomplished thespian, further charmed the audience with his rendition of Chinglish’s main character, the befuddled and naive American businessman who is a stranger in a strange land.

The play was served well with a beautiful set involving a revolving stage floor that ensures smooth transitions, and multimedia screens cleverly built into the backdrop. Chinglish touches on the complexities of cultural and linguistic differences, besides the agonising struggle of understanding Chinese false modesty, including the Middle Kingdom’s famed ways of indirectness and ambiguity.

More importantly, Chinglish highlights China’s gargantuan focus on “guan-xi” (connections), and its theme of networks and relationships, like love (the Chinese have various terms used for different forms of affection) and duty, which are prevalent throughout.

Thanking the audience during curtain call for their tremendous support for Pangdemonium, a jubilant Pang shared that tickets for the entire run of Chinglish have been sold out. It is heartening, not just for Pangdemonium, but the country’s arts scene in general, to see Singapore’s theatre scene blossoming in vibrancy.

Chinglish runs until Oct 25. It is sold out, but you can contact Pangdemonium for a place on their waiting list.

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