Re-staged for the fifth time, Titoudao is based on the life of Mdm Oon Ah Chiam, a popular Chinese street opera actress in the 50s and 60s. The play follows her life and the rise and fall of wayang, interspersed with scenes from Titoudao, where Mdm Oon plays the titular character.
Directed by Goh Boon Teck and starring Audrey Luo as Mdm Oon, Titoudao brings the golden era of wayang back to life.
Before the show, I was dreading the wayang scenes. Bad childhood memories made me less than fond of screeching voices and I don’t understand a word of dialect. But don’t worry, there are subtitles.
Titoudao has all the elements of traditional wayang – performed in dialect, with shrill instrumentals, elaborate costumes and a plot that’s too easily resolved. Yet, it remains light-hearted and entertaining by poking fun at wayang tropes. And most surprisingly, the play was funny! The crossdressing characters made for some truly hilarious moments.Picture courtesy of Toy Factory
There’s no denying that the cast was excellent. The youngest cast to stage Titoudao, their energy was infectious, but their youth might be against them. The heavier, more emotional scenes were played with passion, but the emotions portrayed felt a tad artificial.
I was amazed by the cast’s fluency in English, Mandarin and Hokkien. The actors switched from one language to another seamlessly and there were some “lost in translation” moments that were comedic gold. The cast’s talent is limitless – they can sing, act, speak more languages than you can and deliver some excellent one-liners.Picture courtesy of Toy Factory
The little details are easily overlooked, but they made Titoudao so much more compelling. The scene transitions occasionally included onstage costume changes, making the play seem more realistic and drawing a stark contrast between the static wayang characters and Mdm Oon’s complex life.
The charm of Titoudao lies in its cohesiveness. The harmony of the cast, coupled with purposeful staging and meaningful direction, inspires a deep sense of nostalgia.
The play feels like an intimate behind-the-scenes look at a wayang actress’ life. Older audience members would leave the play reminiscing about the good old times. As for me, I left the play seeing wayang in a new light, with newfound respect for the craft.
“Wayang sure die when we die,” says Mdm Oon. Titoudao acknowledges the inevitability of wayang’s decline, but offers us a rose-coloured glimpse of its heyday.
Dates and Times: 5 – 14 March. Tue – Fri 3 p.m., 8 p.m., Sat & Sun, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $49 – 69 from SISTIC.
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre. 100 Victoria Street Level 3, National Library Building, Singapore 188064
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