Straits Time Life! review

More spills than chills
Tara Tan
17 August 2009
(c) 2009 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

Comedy revue caters to younger audience, but still tugs at heartstrings

H Is For Hantu / Stages
Alliance Francaise de Singapour
Last Friday

Director Jonathan Lim (of Chestnuts fame) combines comedy, song and ghost stories to good effect in his latest play, H Is For Hantu.

Set in the last surviving kampung in Singapore, where supernatural beings seek refuge from the chaotic city life, the gossamer-thin plot revolves around a boy’s efforts to save the village from the Government’s redevelopment plans.

The boy (an earnest and peppy Ghazali Muzakir) is aided by his ghostly friends, a sultry Pontianak (Jo Tan) and a happy-go-lucky Hantu Penanggalan (Candice de Rozario), which is a ghost with just a head and long entrails.

More slapstick than spooky, this rip-roaring comedy had me chuckling at its sly digs at contemporary culture and quintessentially Singaporean references such as a ghost’s complaints that he keeps walking through ERP gantries.

Cheeky and topical – director Lim slips in lessons about urban renewal and harmonious living – the revue was also poignantly framed by more than a passing reference to Singapore’s last surviving village, Kampung Buangkok, which has been slated for redevelopment in the near future.

Although the show skipped along at a jaunty pace, it felt a little threadbare at times during its two-hour duration. It also seemed to cater to a younger crowd, peppered as it was with overzealous narration, moral lessons delivered just a tad too earnestly, and jokes that are rather tame and child-friendly. The absence of the clever naughtiness which is often found in Lim’s previous edgier works, haunted this play.

Nonetheless, there was much to like about H Is For Hantu. The youthful cast, made up of fresh faces, was delightful and energetic. Puppet master Frankie Malachi’s beautiful creations, from the kind, wood-gnarled face of the Hantu Galah to the chilling porcelain head of a child ghost, enthralled. And local composer Bang Wenfu’s catchy ditties lifted the play, even if poor acoustics meant the actors’ voices couldn’t be heard clearly.

If H Is For Hantu was not slick, it was at least enjoyable, especially for those who are young at heart. More pertinently, it dealt with issues and themes close to the hearts of Singaporeans. There was beauty in its imperfection, down to the too-cute miniature MRT train in the slightly rickety set.

taratan@sph.com.sg

book it
H IS FOR HANTU
Where: Alliance Francaise Auditorium
When: Today to Sunday, 3 and 8pm
Admission: $30, $35 and $40 from Gatecrash ( www.gatecrash.com.sg or call 6100-2005)

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