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Political satire with more than just laughs
UNLESS one has a death wish or is dying to know if the curry rice at Changi Prison tastes better than the midnight stall at Jalan Besar selling the same dish, anybody would know better than to make fun of politics or race in Singapore.
So you have to hand it to playwright Alfian Sa'at for knowing his way around these no-fly-zones and emerging unscathed every time.
Just earlier this year, the 39-year-old left the audience rolling in the aisles with the side-splitting sketch-based Meenah and Cheenah, which mercilessly mocked racial stereotypes. Before that, there were also the thought-provoking Cooling Off Day (2011), Cook a Pot of Curry (2013) and GRC (Geng Rebut Cabinet). The latter was originally staged by Teater Ekamatra last December and is now back for an encore run as part of Wild Rice's on-going Singapore Theatre Festival.
Directed by Mohd Fared Jainal, the razor-sharp political satire relentlessly takes digs at various sociopolitical issues including the Group Representation Constituency system which it spoofs in its title.
The cheeky plot re-imagines Singapore with a Malay majority population instead of Chinese; and the members of Workers' Action Party (yep!) in Chai-Chee Commonwealth GRC (ahem!) - made up of an ambitious minister (Khairudin Samsudin), an enthusiastic grassroots leader (Dalifah Shahril), a himbo brigadier-general (Fir Rahman) and a high-flying corporate lawyer (Farah Ong) - getting ready to unveil their pre-requisite minority candidate.
She is an idealistic Chinese school principal (Serene Chen stepping into the role Neo Swee Lin played in the original run) who sees her candidacy as an opportunity to bring attention to the problems in her community; while the other members view her merely as someone to make up the number and to meet the criteria of forming a GRC team.
The jokes in the hilarious script are spot-on and witty enough to rival anything on The Daily Show and the cast of five - with Samsudin's comic flair and timing making him a standout - does a great job of tickling the crowd endlessly; as Sa'at makes one nudge-nudge-wink-wink reference after another to things like gerrymandering (Chai-Chee Commonwealth is not the only GRC, there is also Kembangan Bukit Gombak) and high-ranking military personnel turning into not-very-charismatic politicians.
But GRC is also more than just a laugh-out-loud political farce as Sa'at forces the audience to think about the complex nature of race dynamics by turning the status quo inside out. It's rare we see a sacred cow being slaughtered this openly and honestly.
- GRC (Geng Rebut Cabinet) runs until July 24 (Sunday) at the Lasalle College of the Arts' Flexible Performance Space. Tickets are sold out