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The Soldier & his Virtuous Wife

A pair of newlyweds are separated when the husband it sent away to the army one day after their wedding. Ten years later, he makes a fool of himself trying to seduce a woman who turns out to be none other than his own wife!

Originally presented as part of The Theatre Practice 10 year anniversary and based the traditional Yuan opera “Qui Hu Flirts with His Wife”, The Soldier & His Virtuous Wife is a modern send-up to the Chinese period comedy of errors. Written by Lou Pei-An ( Leader of GreenRay Theatre Company, Taiwan) and led by The Theatre Practice’s Assistant Artistic Director and veteran theatre director Wong May Lan, this entertaining and accessible musical mixes nostalgic melodrama, uproarious irreverence and camp, with some traditional Yuan opera thrown in!

Date: 2 – 20 April 2008

Venue: Drama Centre Theatre

Director: Wong May Lan

Producer: Kuo Jian Hong

Producer: Felina Khong

Playwright: Lou Pei-An

Composer: Chen Yang

Music Arranger: Belinda Foo

Vocal Coach: Lim Shieh Yih

Choreographer: Low Ee Chiang

Set Designer: Lim Keng San

Costume and Hair Designer: Tan Hong Chye

Lighting Designer: Lee Bee Bee

Sound Designer: Shah Tahir

Cast: Joanna Dong, Ric Liu, Darius Tan, Jonathan Lim, Jacqueline Chow, Catherine Wong, Gordon Choy, Liu Hong, Katherine Tang

Band: Belinda Foo, Tan Kian Wee, Wong You Jie Julian, Jonathan Koh, Damien Lim Yong Seng

This is the third time we’re performing The Soldier & His Virtuous Wife.

The first time, it was Kuo Pao Kun who introduced me to this Taiwanese play. He knew I could handle wit and comedy, which was why he gave me the responsibility to direct it. Now that we’re putting it up again, it’s as if he’s still watching me- what are you going to do?

This time, I got a team of professionals working with me on all sides. Their creativity has been limitless: old songs have been given new scores; dance and movement have been born out of a mix of East and West. There’ve been difficulties and challenges, testing out new tech, including a whole new lighting system (at the time of printing we still have no idea what the results will be: we’ll know for sure when the curtain goes up!). Additionally, I’ve got a great batch of young actors to work with, full of verbal wit and comedic talent. It’s a shame the audience hasn’t been able to see our rehearsals: with all our jokes and crazy mistakes, it’s just been a wonderful, wonderful process.

While the cast has mainly trained in Western theatre traditions, their diligence and hard work have really touched me. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with them.

I hope you’ll find some of that same pleasure in the theatre tonight. I hope you’ll laugh- whether if it’s a tiny chuckle, a loud laugh or a hidden grin, it doesn’t matter. Just relax for a while and enjoy a little of the rare humor to be found in this planet. Allow us to provide you a mind and full-body massage.

So, fellow soldiers, prepare to launch your grenades of laughter! Charge!!!!!!!
May Lan

The laughs are often cheap and obvious but that shamelessness is the essence of the play: the play is here to entertain entertain entertain and this it does with much colour and charm. The funniest moments are when this ridiculously over-the-top musical-comedy take on Chinese opera segues into Western pop cultural references (Bananarama, hip hop, Madonna) and sensibilities but really, the whole play is gag after gag. Kudos to director May Lan for her vibrant vision (and attention to detail – look out for the sight gags in the background) and the strong ensemble cast especially Darius Tan as the billionaire trying to lure the Virtuous Wife from her Soldier husband and Liu Hong and Katherine Tang as his sycophantic sidekicks. Utterly hilarious!

– 4 out of 5, Kenneth Kwok, 9 Apr 2008