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Must-watch of October: The Finger Players' two award-winning plays, Turn By Turn We Turn (above) and Roots are intimate, well-crafted and heart-tugging works that examine legacy and heritage.
BT_20141003_HYFINGER3__1297296.jpg
Must-watch of October: The Finger Players' two award-winning plays, Turn By Turn We Turn and Roots (above) are intimate, well-crafted and heart-tugging works that examine legacy and heritage.

Two classic plays return to the stage

Oct 3, 2014 5:50 AM

IF you missed these two plays the first time they were staged, stop what you're doing and go online to get tickets: Turn By Turn We Turn and Roots are two highly acclaimed Singapore works that won the Best Production of the Year at the Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Both are original productions performed in Mandarin with English surtitles by the small but very respected The Finger Players, and they are being revived for the company's 15th anniversary celebrations this month. Intimate, well-crafted and heart-tugging, the plays are easily two of the must-watch productions of the year.

Artistic director Chong Tze Chien says: "Singapore's best plays don't get seen enough because of their relatively short runs. Unfortunately, short runs are a reality here as companies battle rising theatre costs and a saturated arts calendar."

  Adding to these problems is the perception that "local works are not up to par, such that even our best works won't stir people's interest. Despite the accolades and critical acclaim some of our works and artists have been garnering internationally, our local audiences are still suspicious of local works." 

Roots had a successful run in Hong Kong in March, while Turn By Turn We Turn has plans to tour Japan in 2016 or 2017.

Turn By Turn We Turn follows the fortunes of an eight-member puppet troupe against the backdrop of the turbulent politics of China from the 1920s to the present day.

At one point, the troupe has to choose to side with the Royalists, the Nationalists or the Communists. Later on, it is caught in a dilemma of whether to perform for collaborators of the Japanese Occupiers, even though the latter murdered their people.

Eventually, some members of the troupe move to Singapore where once again they face a different challenge to their practice - in this case, indifference.

The struggles of the troupe is interspersed with its puppet performances of the Monkey King, whose perilous journey to the West poignantly mirrors the fate of the human puppeteers.

When it premiered in 2011, The Business Times called it "a masterful production... rich in metaphor and imagery". It won not only the Best Production of 2012, but also the Best Director trophy for Chong.

Meanwhile, the second play Roots tells the story of one man's journey to China to seek out his family's ancestry. Written, directed and performed solo by Oliver Chong, it is an intimate and lovingly wrought work that sees Chong playing more than a dozen different characters - from a grumpy 89-year-old grandmother to a chorus of village elders.

Roots won the Best Production award as well as Best Script for Chong, who says the two plays were selected for a second staging this month because they are "thematically similar. They look back in history to where the Singaporean Chinese came from, and how the past impacts the present".

Artistic director Chong says: "They create a discourse about legacy and heritage, which resonates nicely with our anniversary celebrations."

Turn By Turn We Turn is now playing at the Drama Centre Black Box, National Library Building Level 5, till Oct 12, 8pm (Tuesday to Saturday), 3pm (Saturday and Sunday

Roots will play at the at the Drama Centre Black Box, National Library Building Level 5, from Oct 16 to 26, 8pm (Tuesday to Saturday), 3pm (Saturday and Sunday)

Tickets at $30 to $35 for one play; $40 package deal for two plays, from Sistic