THERE are years when Singapore theatre is dominated by intense character-driven dramas played by a small cast that prove why intimate theatre is so much more rewarding than a blockbuster movie.
2014 isn't one of those years. Local theatre companies demonstrated how good they've become in delivering powerhouse spectacles with top-notch production designs and performances. The rebooted Singapore International Festival of Arts also brought some theatrical stunners.
Here are the year's best:
MONKEY GOES WEST
By Wild Rice (Singapore)
NOTHING was more entertaining in 2014 than Wild Rice's adaptation of the Chinese epic Journey To The West. Written by Alfian Sa'at and directed by Sebastian Tan, it delivered splendidly in every department - script, costumes, music and more. Though Wild Rice's annual pantomime is touted as family fare, it transcended the genre to become great theatre by almost anyone's standards.
THE RISE & FALL OF LITTLE VOICE
By Pangdemonium (Singapore)
AFTER last year's extraordinary Next To Normal, Pangdemonium returned with a terrific adaptation of Jim Cartwright's 1992 musical. Scriptwriter-actor Adrian Pang deftly transposed the plot to 1970s Singapore when life was groovier. But the show belonged to Mina Kaye who played the shy central character with a big, bold singing voice. Her astonishing turn gets this reviewer's vote for Performance of the Year.
DIM SUM DOLLIES: THE HISTORY OF SINGAPORE PART 2
By Dream Academy
IT may not be the Dim Sum Dollies' funniest, but it's certainly the boldest and most subversive. Taking on sensitive topics and political personalities, it charts the rise of Singapore post-1965 through songs, dances, skits and really gaudy costumes.
By Berliner Ensemble (Germany/US)
THIS dark, twisted version of Peter Pan became the hottest ticket at the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA). Helmed by the avant-garde director Robert Wilson, it oscillated beautifully between musical comedy and dark terror - and left audiences hungry for more.
THE CHORUS; OEDIPUS
By Juk-Dal (South Korea)
DIRECTOR Seo Jae-Hyung blew the dust off the 2,500-year-old Greek tragedy - and blew the audience away with his stylish yet heart-wrenching reworking of Oedipus Rex at SIFA.
A DREAM LIKE A DREAM
By Performance Workshop (Taiwan)
THIS 7½ hour magnum opus of Taiwanese drama doyen Stan Lai criss-crossed continents and eras to tell a complex and multi-layered tale about an architect, a courtesan and their enduring love affair.
By Nine Years Theatre (Singapore)
SINGAPORE'S best new Mandarin company extended its winning streak with Yasmin Reza's comedy Art, about the value of contemporary art. Its dream cast of Oliver Chong, Peter Sau and Liu Xiaoyi played the comedy to the hilt.
By Pangdemonium (Singapore)
TACKLING the sensitive issue of weight, Fat Pig begins as a cute romantic comedy involving a fat woman and her boyfriend - and then devolves into a ruthless, relentless tragedy. Director Tracie Pang has an eye for young talent, casting mostly newscomers and drawing solid performances out of each one.
THE WAY WE GO
By Checkpoint Theatre (Singapore)
ONE of very few good productions done with an original Singapore script, Joel Tan's gentle and assured dramedy about finding love late in life demonstrated his ear for dialogue and humour. Directed by Claire Wong, it featured a strong homecoming performance by Lydia Look.
By The Necessary Stage (Singapore)
RACE, class, sexuality and religion become inexhaustible wellsprings of insults and abuse in The Necessary Stage's angry, unrelenting and utterly necessary exploration of the Ugly Singaporean. Playwright Haresh Sharma and director Alvin Tan have been digging into these sensitive terrain for more than 20 years now.