Are Theatrical Productions Just Meant to Entertain?

As I write this blog post, I have watched three productions, namely Frozen, Mamma Mia and Peter Pan, The Never Ending Story. I never thought I would say so but each production has thrown me into a contemplative state of mind as I watched them play out in front of me. Each of them had something for me to think about.

Frozen was a production by Pangdemonium.

One sunny morning 10-year-old Rhona goes missing. Her mother Nancy (Karen Tan), retreats into a state of frozen hope...for the next twenty years. Does “closure”, mean forgiveness? Or revenge? Agnetha (Janice Koh) is a pioneering psychiatrist with a controversial theory on serial killers. Does she really believe what she preaches, even as she fights her own demons? And then there’s Ralph (Adrian Pang), a loner with a fractured history and a deadly obsession...Is he a monster? Or a misunderstood man-child? Drawn together by horrific circumstances, these three individuals embark upon a tangled, twisted journey, uncovering one another’s skeleton.

It was a play which was morally grey in the sense that there was no right or wrong. The audience would come to their own conclusions. To me as a Linguistics major, the nature vs nurture debate was all I could think about. If Ralph wasn't abused as a kid, would he have become the person he was now? I stand on the side of nurture, meaning I blame his environment. Why? I believe that all of us, our nature, are similar in the sense that we are selfish beings, prone to making mistakes and we need law and order to be in place. The environment, on the other hand, is what is different for every kid. The environment in which a kid grows up is super important in my opinion; his parents, the way they teach their kid, that determines the people they grow up to be. The principles, the habits, they live by, all these have to be taught. 

On that note, let's move on to Peter Pan, The Never Ending Story, a Music Hall Production. 

It tells the enchanting story of Peter Pan, a mischievous boy, with the ability to fly and refuses to grow up. One night, he visits Wendy, John, and Michael Darling in their London nursery and takes them on an unforgettable flight where the Lost Boys, Indians, mermaids and pirates await them at Neverland. In adventures beyond their wildest imaginations, the villainous Captain Hook hatches an evil scheme that crescendos to a dramatic swordfight with Peter.

Photo credits: Leslie Artamonow

I saw Peter Pan in a different light. Watching the play unfold before me, it suddenly struck me that this was one fairy tale I would definitely want to tell children about. No, not your Disney princes and princesses, there are enough of these lousy personalities in real life; kids who are spoiled rotten and think they are 'above' everyone else in terms of looks. It is a story of friendship, of sacrifice. Tinkerbell, the fairy in the story, was more human than she seemed. She experienced jealousy when a close friend neglected her and ultimately sacrificed herself for Peter, prioritising friendship above all. While there are many Chinese wuxia novels which speak of loyalty and sacrifice, Peter Pan seems to be one of the few fairy tales that convey these values. That scene whereby she nearly died, was one that really touched me there. Sacrifice. 

Besides that, it once again reminds me of the innocence of children. Lets not be in a hurry for them to grow up. They should have the right to enjoy their childhood, to be unburdened by the troubles and responsibilities of the adult world. Let children be children. You will be surprised by how fast they grow up. 

Talking about the adult world, it brings me to the next musical production, Mamma Mia.

Inspired by the story-telling magic of ABBA's timeless hits, this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship tells the story of a daughter's quest to discover the identity of her father on the eve of her wedding, bringing three men from her mother's past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago.  

Although this musical doesn't seem to have a serious note to it, the beginning and end of the musical seem to suggest that we should chase our dreams. It tells us that we shouldn't let tradition hold us back. That despite the harsh reality of the world, how we are expected to marry at a certain age and hold a stable job, we shouldn't give up our dreams, not while we have a shot at fulfilling them. 

Hope that you enjoy reading my thoughts inspired by these various productions. If you haven't watched them, what's stopping you?

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