Madam White Snake by the Chinese Theatre Circle.
(10 & 11 March 2000; Kreta Ayer People's Theatre)
I've watched both the Cantonese & the English versions of Madam White Snake. First of all, I liked the arrangement of the orchestra: they were seated on the left hand corner in front of the stage so that the audience could see them. In other opera performances at the Kreta Ayer People's Theatre, the orchestra were hidden on stage.
The CTC is known for its innovative ways of promoting chinese opera. It has made a bold attempt in presenting 'Madam White Snake' in English. Initially, many in the audience giggled when the artistes started to sing in english. It was understandable as the singing sounded rather strange. For a moment I wondered if it was cantonese. I think the performers themselves were not comfortable with singing in english. Nevertheless, the audience seemed to enjoy the show and responded favourably.
Overall it was a good entertaining show. Christopher Choo performed convincingly well as the evil monk. Hoi Siong and Yew Cheong also played their roles competently.
As for the Cantonese version, I think many cantonese opera fans and enthusiasts would miss the scene in which White Snake drinks the 'wine' and turns into a snake. Perhaps, changing from the scene 'Meeting at West Lake' straight to the scene 'Reunion at the Broken Bridge' was too abrupt for them. A scene in between depicting the life of the loving couple after marriage would help in the development of the story. The cantonese version was less than 2.5 hours; hence adding another scene would not make the opera too long.
The final scene, 'Flooding the Gin Shan Monastry', was a well-crafted spectacular one consisting of brilliant costumes, graceful 'dances', good actions and magnificient acrobatics. There were even doses of humour.
Seetho Hoi Siong showed confidence in her role as White Snake. She executed some splendid body moves and showed her skills in the twirling and manipulation of the 'spear'.
Pity that many opera fans who would be there almost every night when troupes from China performed, did not watch this local production. It was an excellent effort. Our young artistes need our encouragement and support.