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~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… Brisbane, Australia – Once More In The Land Down Under

This is probably my last post in the yearningforlove Series as I intend to go for an extended hiatus from writing. Work has been stressful, but fulfilling and rewarding at the same time, especially when my efforts result in a marked improvement in standards or when I receive compliments from my clients. That said, the hours I’ve dedicated to the job has really taken a lot out of me and this “mini-vacation” (of sorts) is truly a welcome break for me.

Work is Stressful!

Work is Stressful!

This trip to Brisbane is largely unplanned, with most of my arrangements done just days before my departure. The main purpose of the trip was actually to help settle Priscilla (my sis) down in Brisbane, as her school term starts this coming August, after she was accepted into University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Agriculture and Food Sciences. Dad and Mum had done the necessary prep and the original plan was for them to fly over with Priscilla to aid her in setting up what would probably be her home for the next 4 years, whilst helping her assimilate into a new culture and environment. I was a last minute inclusion, after I had managed to make the necessary arrangements from work to squeeze out the five days where I will be able to spend with my dear sis as she embarks on a new journey in her life.

UQ - One of Australia's oldest and selective universities

UQ – One of Australia’s oldest and selective universities

If you’ve been reading my series, I am not much of a stranger to Australia, having been there four times before; Brisbane in 2000, Sydney and Melbourne in 2013 & Perth in the years 2002 and 2014. This is however the first time I’ll be staying in Brisbane City as the previous trip in 2000, we had opted to stay along Surfers Paradise in Gold Coast instead. This time round, in order to be closer to the campus grounds, we decided to forgo the fun of the sand and surf, and decided to stay within Brisbane city centre for easier access and facilitation. That’s not to say I didn’t get to have fun or enjoy myself as Brisbane also offers its own unique sights and views. Here’s a day by day account of my mini break in Brisbane as I head once more to the land down under!

Slice Of The Past – Surfers Paradise circa. 2000

Slice Of The Past – Surfers Paradise circa. 2000

Day 1 – 8 Jul – Goodbye Singapore, Hello Australia

As my plans for the trip were quite last minute, I chose not to fly SQ with my family as the fares were almost twice of what I had budgeted for the trip. As such, the most economical and convenient option for me was to fly Scoot to OOL (Gold Coast Airport), where I will then hop onto an airport shuttle to transfer to Brisbane city. The flight departed on time at 2225hrs, and it was my first flight on a 787 Dreamliner. It is also the first time I’m flying since I began working at SATS, and it was pretty weird to be flying on a flight whereby my staff were in charge of the departure handling just minutes before. Anyways, the flight was pretty routine. With Scoot being a low cost carrier, there wasn’t much to do on board, and with my phone (mandatorily) switched off, I had one of the best undisturbed sleep ever since my days in Lost and Found.

The cheaper option was to fly Scoot to OOL instead of BNE

The cheaper option was to fly Scoot to OOL instead of BNE

Day 2 – 9 Jul – Brisbane Awaits

I touched down at Gold Coast Airport at about 07:30am, just slightly ahead of schedule. As I had tagged my belongings on my parents’ flight on SQ, I had no checked-in baggage except for a small cabin bag and my laptop. As such, I did not have to wait for any luggage at the baggage carousel and could spare some minutes to grab a quick coffee before my pickup to Brisbane. The drive from Gold Coast to Brisbane took approximately an hour, and I got in to the city a couple of hours before the rest of the family arrived. Our residence (Evolution Apartments) was just off the city centre, along Tank Street, which provided a very stunning backdrop of the city and the Brisbane River.

Touching Down in OOL

Touching Down in OOL

The View from Evolution

The View from Evolution

After a quick shower and freshening up, we decided to go explore the Fortitude Valley area where Brisbane’s Chinatown lies. With my sister’s extended stay in Brisbane, my parents were interested in seeing the accessibility (and prices) of Chinese food and supplies over there. It was comforting to know that we could still find things like Essence of Chicken from Brands, Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, and fresh Chinese greens around, but the prices were pretty astronomical as compared to Singapore. That said, being alone in a foreign land, when you are feeling homesick or craving for something familiar from home, I’ll gladly pay the premium pricing.

Brisbane Chinatown

Brisbane Chinatown

After surveying Chinatown, we headed to Queen Street Mall, which is Brisbane’s version of Orchard Road. Australia has a culture of early closing hours, so we had to rush quite a little before the shutters of the shops came down. The first thing we had to do was to sign up for a mobile plan for my sis. I had assisted with a project when I was doing my rotation in Marketing as part of the GAP Program where we were looking into the sales of SIM cards onboard flights in and out of Australia. As such, I was a little familiar with the various offerings from the major telcos over there; mainly Telstra, Vodafone, Lebara and Optus. We settled with Optus as they were currently having a promo, with additional 1GB free data and unlimited outgoing overseas call to Singapore, which suits my sister’s needs just fine.

The Shrine of Remembrance, ANZAC Square, which is located around Queen, Ann and Adelaide Street

The Shrine of Remembrance, ANZAC Square, which is located around Queen, Ann and Adelaide Street

The day was rounded up with a simple dinner consisting of pies paired with a bottle of watermelon flavoured wine before we all retired for the night.

Delicious Pies from Australian Chain Pie Face

Delicious Pies from Australian Chain Pie Face

Day 3 – 10 Jul – Eat Street Markets, South Bank and Making New Friends

We headed to one of Brisbane’s many weekend markets on the morning of our 3rd day in Brisbane. Eat Street Markets, which is located at Macarthur Ave in the suburb of Hamilton, is one of the best in the city based on recommendations from my JC classmate Sharon and it did not disappoint. Billed as the ultimate foodie extravaganza, Eat Street Markets offers a selection of international cuisines and handcrafted boutique beers.

With Sis at Eat Street Markets

With Sis at Eat Street Markets

We tasted a smorgasbord of different food from all around the world; beginning with some Fresh Seafood from Phunky Dory, to Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Greek Honey Puffs, followed by Mexican Chipotle Wings and Italian Wood Fired Pizzas; all of which are washed down with Homemade Ginger Beer and freshly brewed Chai Latte. I highly recommend the Moreton Bay Bug (aka crayfish) from Phunky Dory, which are BBQ’d with a delicious garlic butter concoction and served with either Beer Battered Chips or Sweet Potato Fries. Catch them before they sell out!

Seafood Platter from Phunky Dory

Seafood Platter from Phunky Dory

After satisfying our taste buds, we took a bus back into the city where we explored South Bank. South Bank is Brisbane’s premier cultural and recreational destination and is home to the Queensland Cultural Centre and the Wheel of Brisbane. As the name suggests, South Bank is located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River, and it regularly holds delightful events all year round celebrating the Arts and Culture. The Le Festival (Brisbane French Festival) was being held at the parkland grounds while we were there. It does cost you a little to enter the event grounds, but if the festival theme interests you, why not enjoy the sights, food and the entertainment that it offers?

The Wheel of Brisbane

The Wheel of Brisbane

The View of the CBD from South Bank

The View of the CBD from South Bank

Le Festival - Brisbane French Festival

Le Festival – Brisbane French Festival

After covering South Brisbane, we headed back to the apartment where we freshen ourselves up for dinner. We were invited to Auntie Ee Leng’s home (Dad’s acquaintance from work) whose kids were also students from UQ and my parents thought it would be good for sis to gather some advice and information for her stint over there. The Yeos were very hospitable and we quickly clicked despite not having met each other before. It wasn’t long before we natter away whilst dining on the delicious dinner spread that Auntie Ee Leng and her daughter Kat had prepared for us. We spoke about life in UQ, working at the airport (given my position at SATS and that both Dad and Auntie Ee Leng are SQ luminaries) and the differences between Australia and Singapore. It was almost midnight when we bid each other goodbye and it was very nice of the Yeos to offer to drive us back to our apartment and for Auntie Ee Leng and Kat to offer their assistance to my sis should my sis require anything during her stay in Brisbane.

Making new friends with the Yeos

Making new friends with the Yeos

Nothing beats having a familiar face in a foreign country and it is nice making new friends and contacts.

Day 4 – 11 Jul – Moving into UQ

UQ awaits us today as we helped sis transport her belongings into her student house in Cromwell College. Founded in 1909, UQ is one of Australia’s oldest and selective universities, and is consistently ranked among the top in university rankings worldwide. Universities nowadays are not just a place for academic learning, but is also a place of interest. The University of Oxford draws thousands of visitors yearly due to its use as a filming site for the Harry Potter film series, while my alma mater NTU has also attracted some photograph enthusiasts to capture photos of the uniquely designed NTU Learning Hub (affectionately dubbed the dim-sum building due to its resemblance to stacked dim-sum steamers). UQ also has its own appeal and allure, with the Great Court being one of my favourites within the campus grounds. The Great Court is a heritage-listed site that was added into the Queensland Heritage Register in 2002. The court was built upon extensive sculptural work featuring historical artwork, coats of arms and Australian cultures and traditions. It has now transcended to a place of aesthetic significance and is an important part of UQ’s identity. I also love the fact that students can choose to study on the grassed area in the centre of the Great Court – a huge contrast to the concrete jungle that we are so used to in Singapore’s universities. The Great Court is also surrounded by beautiful sandstone buildings which are now the dominant feature of the St. Lucia landscape. Definitely worth taking some time to stroll around the beautiful campus grounds.

Dim-Sum Building at NTU

Dim-Sum Building at NTU

The Great Court in UQ St. Lucia

The Great Court in UQ St. Lucia

Sandstone Buildings at UQ

Sandstone Buildings at UQ

As for the student house itself, I must say I was pretty impressed with the facilities and amenities provided by the university. My sis was housed in an apartment unit shared with 3 other housemates, all of which are international students. Each student is given her own personal room, fully furnished with bedding, wardrobes, study desk and other basic needs. The apartment also comes with a kitchen, living room and a balcony, which allows for simple home cooked fares and a place to hang your laundry. It is much better than what is being offered in NTU, where most halls are simply single room units shared between two students with only basic pantry services available at the common area at each level (although we do get air conditioning here at NTU). That said, the cost of living in UQ is almost 3 times as much as what one pays for at NTU, so I guess what you pay is what you get.

Cromwell College, where my sis will reside

Cromwell College, where my sis will reside

We had lunch at Burger Urge where feasted on burgers, wraps, chips and onion rings. The limited edition Mrs Clinton’s burger (named after Hillary Clinton) was my favourite item from the menu. Featuring a soft toasted wholemeal bun, a tender piece of fried chicken, maple smoked bacon, jalapeños, melted cheese and chipotle mayo dressing, my advice is to cut the burger in half, take a bite and enjoy the messy but strangely satisfying jumble of different flavours in your mouth and then do it everything all over again once more!

Mrs. Clinton - by Burger Urge

Mrs. Clinton – by Burger Urge

After lunch, we went to Toowong Village to stock up on daily essentials for my sis while I also took the opportunity to shop for (everybody’s favourite) Tim Tams to be brought back to the loved ones back in Singapore. The wide range of Tim Tam flavours were really fascinating, from conventional flavours like Chocolate and Salted Caramel to exotic flavours such as Strawberry Champagne, Pina Colada to Chocolate Banana and Pineapple. I spent a mini fortune on the Tim Tams, enough to fill up my entire hand carry with nothing except the delicious little treats.

Spent a mini fortune on these delicious little treats

Spent a mini fortune on these delicious little treats

Once we were done with our shopping, we took the CityCat back into the CBD where we had dinner at Jade Buddha Bar and Kitchen, located along Eagle Street Pier. With spectacular views of the Brisbane River and stunning sights of the city lights, Jade Buddha is a great venue for a cocktail or a casual meal whilst in Brisbane. Boasting a menu of Asian fusion cuisines, we went with a Jade Buddha Platter, Barramundi served in Coconut Cream and Butter Chicken dished up in a delicious creamy Tomato Butter Gravy with crispy Pappadums. The meal was made complete with a pint of Australian cider and their signature Chocolate Buddha; a Chocolate Lava Cake served with Vanilla Ice-Cream. The food here is pretty decent, although the prices was a bit on the steep side given its location and setting. Dinner for 4 (including drinks), will easily set you back abit, with my bill coming to around 150 AUD.

Brisbane's CityCats

Brisbane’s CityCats

Jade Buddha offers a stunning view of the Brisbane River

Jade Buddha offers a stunning view of the Brisbane River

The Signature Chocolate Buddha

The Signature Chocolate Buddha

With our tummies filled, it was time for me to get back to our apartment to pack up and rest as I was due to leave for the airport early next morning. From Eagle Street Pier, we took the free CityHopper ferry service to North Quay, where it is just a quick 5 minutes walk away from Evolution. It is nice of the Brisbane City Council to provide such free services, which benefits both the locals, and also provides tourists like myself an affordable and enjoyable mode of transportation as we took in the Brisbane River and city sights. If only there was a similar service in Singapore that provides complimentary river cruises along the Singapore River.

One of Brisbane's CityHopper ferries

One of Brisbane’s CityHopper ferries

Day 5 – 12 Jul – Bidding Goodbye, First Flight on Qantas and Appraising The Graduate

My pickup to the airport was due to arrive at 0840hrs in time for my 12:15pm departure on QF51 back to Singapore. My parents were staying over in BNE for a few more days until my sis starts her orientation at UQ. As the airport transfer pulled in, it was an emotional farewell as I wished my sis all the best in her endeavour at UQ; the sudden realisation that it would be sometime before we’ll meet again in person (Thank God for Skype/Facetime/Whatsapp/Email and Viber!).

Skype will probably soon be my parents' best friend

Skype will probably soon be my parents’ best friend

I arrived at the Airport with loads to spare, and I took the time to grab some breakfast before making my way through immigration. This would be the first time that I will be flying on Qantas, and I was pretty excited at checking out their cabin amenities, in-flight entertainment (IFE) and cabin services. Being in the aviation industry for almost a year now, I guess I can’t help but to “audit” the flight, especially on the arrival handling in Singapore, which I am part responsible for too.

First flight on QF

First flight on QF

The Airbus 330 was in a 2-4-2 configuration with a decent seat pitch and width in Economy. I was seated on the right-side aisle in the centre 4, and it helped that there wasn’t anyone seated beside me, giving me a little extra legroom at the sides. The IFE was also quite respectable for a full-service carrier like Qantas, with a generous range of movies, games and music (although I think SQ still has a slightly larger selection when compared) to choose from. The thing that stood out for me was their “Classics” selection, which features Academy favourites such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Dirty Dancing, Pulp Fiction and The Graduate, of which I watched the latter, reliving some of the most memorable quotes and scenes from film history (cue Benjamin Braddock: “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?“).

Qantas boasts a pretty decent selection of movies, TV programs, music and games in their IFE library

Qantas boasts a pretty decent selection of movies, TV programs, music and games in their IFE library

As one of the most praised films ever, The Graduate is a coming-of-age film set around Benjamin Braddock (a very youthful looking Dustin Hoffman), an innocent and confused (and lovesick) youth who was (somewhat) exploited, mis-guided and seduced (literally and figuratively) by Mrs. Robinson (portrayed brilliantly by the stunning and beautiful Anne Bancroft). The movie was one of the ground-breaking films of the late 1960s, and set the path for Hoffman as a heavyweight in Hollywood, while making Bancroft a huge sex symbol with many boys treating her as their first sexual fantasy. The film however, had more serious undertones to it, with themes such as the shifting social and sexual mores, the alienation of the (then) younger generation and the growing dissatisfaction of the middle-class community all being featured and/or discussed in the film. For those like myself who are too young to have caught the film when it was released, do take some time to catch some of these classic movies whenever possible – they are called classics for a reason.

The Beautiful Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson

The Beautiful Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson

On the food front however, I must however admit that Qantas failed to meet my standards. Having also been in catering during my GAP rotation (see A Week in August), the food served on the BNE-SIN sector really was quite disappointing. While you get to pick more choices (3 in fact) than what I normally get from flying SQ, the food really wasn’t quite appetising. The Western choice was Lamb, which I decided to give it a miss since I had red meat mostly in the last couple of days, while the Asian menu was an Indian Vegetable Curry – which I am not a fan of Chickpeas and Chutney. I ended up with the alternate choice, Chicken Salad with Vermicelli, which was really not how I had imagined it to be when I first saw the menu. For the first time ever, I did not finish my meal and left half of the dish untouched. Dessert was not any better; it was some sort of pastry/cake with some berry filling which was too sour for my liking. The best part of the meal was (surprise, surprise) the bread roll, which was served warm with a garlic butter inside. A pity no soup was served as part of the menu in coach. It would have taken my disappointment away.

Not quite living up to their tagline of being the finest restaurant in the sky

Not quite living up to their tagline of being the finest restaurant in the sky

Anyway, I touched down back in Singapore just after 6pm and was greeted by the familiar faces of my staff and colleagues. Headed straight to office to pick up some stuff, drop off the Tim Tams for the team and started clearing the snowballing number of emails that have piled up over the days. As I will be on reservist from the 13th till the end of the month, there will be more emails to clear and more work to be done off-site. So not looking forward to it.

A Familiar Sight

A Familiar Sight

In any case, just wanna end the post by wishing my little sis all the best in UQ. Go with an open mind and heart and enjoy yourself. Grow as a person and experience new adventures and cultures. Most importantly, stay safe and have fun! And also, special thanks to Amy Quek (Sharon’s sister) who I must thank for showing my family around Brisbane despite me having flown back to Singapore first. Much appreciated and hopefully I will finally get to see you the next time I visit the capital of Queensland.

Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy yourself in the land down under sis!

Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy yourself in the land down under sis!

For now, G’day and G’bye.


Theatre Review – Romeo & Juliet

While I had majored in Literature during my Junior College (High School) days, the text I read for my syllabus didn’t expose me much to Shakespeare. In fact, the only text I had read through and through was King Lear, with only excerpts from other masterpieces such as Hamlet, Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While Romeo and Juliet have now been typecast in the contemporary English language as archetypal young lovers, I had not read once the tragedy that told the tale of a sweet forbidden love. If there was any association at all with me and the brilliant text that the bard had written over four centuries ago, it would be that I had visited Verona once before, touring Juliet’s House, the site where the famous balcony scene was filmed for Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film adaptation of the tragedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the leading roles.

Juliet's Balcony in Verona, Italy

Juliet’s Balcony in Verona, Italy

With news that this could be the last Shakespeare In The Park event for many years to come, I thought it will be worth taking some time out from my hectic schedule to go catch the play. Shakespeare In The Park is a term used for outdoor festivals featuring productions from none other than the bard himself. Before this year’s staging of Romeo & Juliet, this event had been presented in Singapore 8 times prior by the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT), with Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice among its mainstage repertoire. The event is normally marketed with a carnival-like atmosphere, where one can bring in your own picnic basket and enjoy Shakespeare under the moonlight with your family, friends and loved ones.

Picnic Basket by Official Partner Providore - I did pretty well myself, making smoked salmon canapé, german sausages and a bottle of Malbec for me and my date

Picnic Basket by Official Partner Providore –
I did pretty well myself, making smoked salmon canapé, german sausages and a bottle of Malbec for me and my date

I picked up my lovely date at City Hall before making the short walk over to Fort Canning Park. Despite having arrived more than an hour before the opening, there was a long queue already at the park’s entrance waiting to enter the event premises. I was also worried about the dark clouds and faint whispers of thunder heard in the background as the show would be cancelled in the event of adverse weather. My worries were however unfounded as the skies soon cleared and the play commenced on time as members of the audience cosied up and settled down with their picnic essentials.

The audience settling down as the skies cleared

The audience settling down as the skies cleared

Gaurav Kripalani, SRT's Artistic Director, addresses the crowd before the start of the play

Gaurav Kripalani, SRT’s Artistic Director, addresses the crowd before the start of the play

With its contemporary take on the famous classical text, the first acts of the play may come off as confusing for the audience. Instead of expecting the cast to be in Elizabethan outfits, the cast are dressed instead in modern clothing such as hoodies, sweatshirts and tailored western suits. Modern modes of transport such as motorbikes are featured, while swordfights were replaced with tussles that involved batons, guns and kickboxing. While it is good that art moves along with the times, such modifications seek to cause more confusion than order. This is especially so when most of the dialogue used were kept true to the original text.

SRT's modern take on Romeo & Juliet

SRT’s modern take on Romeo & Juliet

While the production preserved the compelling plot and powerful script, me and my date can’t stop feeling that the cast were suffering from split personality or some form of identity disorder. The language used did not quite gel with the stage setting and avant-garde backdrop. Nonetheless, the cast did a pretty decent job at portraying their respective characters. The two stars of the show are no other than Thomas Pang and Cheryl Tan, both who are taking on a major production of Shakespeare for the very first time. Pang manages to depict the rash, impulsive, and at times foolish (but romantic) Romeo that Shakespeare had envisioned him to be, while Tan manages to personify the subtle wantonness that a young and hormone-raging Juliet possesses. Daniel Jenkins, as one of the most experienced member of the cast, also put in a credible shift as Friar Laurence, his self-flagellation scene perhaps being one of the darkest and outstanding moments of the play.

Cheryl Tan as Juliet

Cheryl Tan as Juliet

Despite my misgivings over the modern direction of the play, I must however admit that the set design is one of my favourite among the various stage performances I’ve seen thus far. The multiple sets of stairs, along with various secret entrances and light effects, makes this set a truly unique and memorable one that will etch in the minds of audiences for time to come. That said, I did experience somewhat of an internal struggle during Act II, Scene II, as they played out the now famous balcony scene without the set having any form of semblance of an actual balcony. As much as I liked this new set design, some things classic just cannot be changed.

SRT Presents - Romeo & Juliet

SRT Presents – Romeo & Juliet

Overall, SRT’s 2016’s edition of Shakespeare In The Park manages to tell the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet, two star-crossed lovers embroiled in a tale of sweet forbidden love, in what I would label as a modern dystopian Verona. For a truly Shakespearean experience, I would suggest catching a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, or at the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-Upon-Avon – Shakespeare’s birthplace in the English Midlands. But if you are looking for an extravagant evening to impress your significant other, why not come to Fort Canning and spread your picnic blanket under the stars and relish in one of the greatest love stories ever told? Canapés, a bottle of red and Shakespeare for company would no doubt be a memorable and romantic evening for all lovebirds out there. Do catch it before Shakespeare In The Park’s final curtain call.

The cast taking in the plaudits at the Curtain Call

The cast taking in the plaudits at the Curtain Call

★★★☆☆Event Details


Theatre Review – Chinglish [Sold Out]

I first came across the term Chinglish during a business module class at NBS where my professor was trying to illustrate the importance of international business communication in a dynamic and fast changing business landscape. Since then, instances of Chinglish have been a source of amusement for me, with bad translation and incorrect usage of grammar causing me to break out in hilarious fits of laughter. When Pangdemonium announced that they will be doing David Henry Hwang’s critically acclaimed comedy, I must admit I was pretty hyped. Though I’ve yet to see the play, given the accolades it received at Broadway (where I’m assuming the audience would be less familiar with the East-West divide), I would believe that it should fare even better in a multicultural society like ours, where even our minority communities are able to understand basic phrases of Mandarin and dialects.

Chinglish - by David Henry Hwang

Chinglish – by David Henry Hwang

Just after the conclusion of The LKY Musical, I took advantage of the early bird offer to purchase a pair of tickets for Chinglish at a 15% discount. I had originally planned to ask a special somebody to catch the comedy together, hoping that it would provide her with some respite from her demanding workload back at school, while I might have an opportunity to improve my standing as a potential date candidate of hers one day. However, heaven’s will dictates that that was not to be, and I was left dateless for the afternoon matinée. I did however win two additional tickets later at a contest by Raffles City Singapore (lucky me), where I was helping out with SATS’ sales of Singapore Airlines Mooncakes at the Market Place. With four tickets now on hand, I decided to forgo any chance of a dreamy romantic date and bring my family for the play instead.

I won two extra tickets to Chinglish! Courtesy of Raffles City Singapore

I won two extra tickets to Chinglish!
Courtesy of Raffles City Singapore

Anyway, Chinglish serves as Pangdemonium’s concluding production for its 2015 Season. It is their first foray into a bilingual play, and Guo Liang’s Singapore theatre debut. The cast included theatre veterans such as Adrian Pang, Daniel Jenkins and Matt Grey, with Audrey Luo and Oon Shu An rounding up the remaining of the highly talented cast. The play opens with Daniel Jenkins’ character (Daniel Cavanaugh) giving a presentation to fellow businessmen about the perils of doing business in China, as well as conquering the differences in the English-Mandarin language barrier. The scene then changes to Cavanaugh’s first experience in China, where he is attempting to conduct business in Guiyang. There, he learns from his “consultant” (Matt Grey as Peter Timms) about guanxi, or forming a network of mutually beneficial relationships, and so begins his adventures in the capital of Guizhou province.

The cast of Chinglish - Making light of the Haze Situation

The cast of Chinglish – Making light of the Haze Situation

Daniel Jenkins and Matt Grey both put in credible efforts in their respective characters, with the latter having started his pre-production preparations by taking Mandarin lessons a whole year before the show opens. Pang also put in a fine performance as Minister Cai; his mannerisms of a typical Chinese businessman and his surprising accurate enunciation of Mandarin taking much of the plaudits. Audrey Luo was a hint of fresh air, playing three different bungling Chinese business translators, yet able to represent the same nucleus of incompetence and blundering features of each individual character.

A scene from Pangdemonium's production of Chinglish. (From left) Daniel Jenkins, Matt Grey, Audrey Luo and Adrian Pang. Photo - ST

A scene from Pangdemonium’s production of Chinglish. (From left) Daniel Jenkins, Matt Grey, Audrey Luo and Adrian Pang. Photo – ST

The shining star of the performance for me, was probably Oon Shu An’s portrayal of the femme fatale, Vice-Minister Xi Yan. Yes, her delivery in Mandarin wasn’t as spot on as the seasoned speakers of the language such as Guo Liang and Audrey Luo, but she more than makes up for it with her appeal and comedic timing. She also wowed audiences with the more sensual side of hers, disrobing to just a set of sexy black lingerie in the bedroom scene that she shared with Daniel Jenkins. A truly alluring stage seductress gifted with grace, elegance and poise, yet at the same time, showcases enough aloofness and jest required of a comedy.

Guo Liang, Daniel Jenkins and the multi-talented Oon Shu An

Guo Liang, Daniel Jenkins and the multi-talented Oon Shu An

Other than the performance of the cast, I would like to also praise the set design. The set of Chinglish is one of the best I’ve seen, with a revolving stage floor that allows for a smooth transition from scene to scene while the backdrop is enhanced by multimedia screens that supports the already very impressive stage set.

The Cast and Creative Team behind Chinglish

The Cast and Creative Team behind Chinglish

On a whole, while Pangdemonium’s adaptation of David Henry Hwang’s play would probably not win us a Tony Award, it is still nonetheless a commendable effort by the hardworking and charming cast. Never have I felt so good to be lost in translation.

★★★★☆

Chinglish runs from 9th to 25th of October. For more information, visit http://pangdemonium.com/productions/chinglish.


A Week in August

When I disembarked from my Singapore Airlines (SQ) flight from Copenhagen last June, never would I have expect that I’ll be so involved with the day to day operations of the airline just one month into my job at SATS. By a twist of fate, I was sent to SATS Inflight Catering Centre 1 for my attachment during the first phase of the Graduate Assimilation Programme (GAP) that I was accepted in. SATS Inflight Catering Centre 1 is the sole handler of all the catering functions for the national carrier – not just food, but the entire catering components ranging from replenishing dry stores/amenities to the servicing/washing of the in-flight service carts. Time seemed to have flashed past in the last month, as the GAPsters were placed on an intensive programme to understand the operations of the entire SATS Group (which includes inflight catering, gateway services, institutional catering and many more). It has been an eye-opener, looking at airport operations behind-the-scenes, the side that a typical passenger will never get to see. This is the first time I got to experience working shifts, as well as really getting down and dirty, working in garbage compactors and operating industrial warewashing equipment. It was also interesting, getting to cook at the production training kitchen, and tasting our own cooked food at the simulated aircraft cabin. And of course, not forgetting the cabin visit, where we toured the galleys, cockpit, as well as the first class suites of SQ’s A380s, marking a memorable first month anniversary at SATS thus far.

While I may not get to fly SQ again anytime soon, my job at SATS deals with the daily operations of our national carrier

While I may not get to fly SQ again anytime soon, my job at SATS deals with the daily operations of our national carrier

Other than celebrating my milestone at work, the past week also marked three other significant events of my life – convocation, my birthday, and the nation’s golden jubilee. Moving in chronological order, my convocation ceremony was held on the 3rd of August at NTU’s own Nanyang Auditorium. As the first university graduate from my household, it was unsurprising for my family to be proud of this moment. Though my first year’s results were not up to par, my subsequent scores in the later years helped pulled my grades up to a more respectable one. Going on stage to receive my scroll is a once in a lifetime moment which I savoured sweetly. Only regret was that my closest relatives like my grandparents and aunt were no longer around to witness this proud moment of our family.

Finally a university graduate

Finally a university graduate

Next, I celebrated my birthday by treating my extended family to dinner with my first paycheck at Mouth Restaurant. We initially had wanted to go for the buffet at TODAI at Marina Bay Sands, but decided otherwise as their promotion was only for the period between the 17th and 20th and 24th to 27th August only. It was nice having a gathering with everyone and I had a great time sharing about my experience at SATS so far with my relatives, with almost all of them in disbelief that I was travelling cross country daily to get from home at Jurong to the airport in Changi.

Celebrating my birthday and first paycheck at Mouth Restaurant

Celebrating my birthday and first paycheck at
Mouth Restaurant

Lastly, I come to the celebration of Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. I was lucky enough to get one night’s free stay at the Rendezvous Hotel after I accumulated enough nights on hotels.com during my graduation trip. Being located in the city, it was easy for us to make our way to the Civic District and the Downtown Core where most of the festivities were being held. We headed to the Marina Barrage, where we caught sight of the aerial display of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) as well as the A380 flypast by Singapore Airlines (due to my work at SATS, I had known about the flypast ahead of SQ’s press release, so it was really hard to keep that information a secret!). The RSAF’s Black Knights were really impressive, especially when the pilots engaged the powerful afterburners of their F-16s during stunts such as barrel rolls and vertical climbs, while the fireworks display at the end of the parade marked an unforgettable end to an amazing week in August.

The Black Knights' impressive aerial display

The Black Knights’ impressive aerial display

Anyway, with my work at SATS now taking up much of my time, I no longer have the luxury to write as often as before. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too long before I’m back here writing again. Until next time!

Grad Photo at Changi with the GAPsters batch of 2015 - Until next time!

Grad Photo at Changi with the GAPsters batch of 2015 –
Until next time!


Theatre Review – The LKY Musical

A lot of people have voiced their disapproval at the making of The LKY Musical and the period film 1965 just months after the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding Prime Minister. Many felt that doing so was an insult to the late Mr Lee, with entertainment companies accused of cashing in on his death. For me however, I felt that having such art productions is an honour and tribute to a great man that helped shaped modern Singapore. When the media first announced the production of the musical, I had set my mind to go catch it when it is released. However, some of the casting choices left me doubtful that the production would be a worthy one. While the cast includes theatre veterans such as Adrian Pang and Sebastian Tan, the casting of Sharon Au raised eyebrows due to her lack of experience in theatre as well as aptitude in singing. Many (including myself) felt that she did not have the necessary poise and finesse to pull off playing the late Mrs Lee née Kwa Geok Choo. So although I had bought tickets to the opening, I didn’t really have very high hopes for the production, especially when it is produced by a relative unknown theatre company – Metropolitan Productions.

1965 & The LKY Musical were released just months after the death of Mr Lee

1965 & The LKY Musical were released just months after the death of Mr Lee

My first thought after I caught the opening was that it was a good, not great production. Having already lowered my expectations, I must say that the final product was better than I had anticipated. That said, it must be noted that much of the play was carried by the brilliance of Pang, who played Mr Lee with much flair and grace, capturing the man’s fears, infuriation and unwavering desire for a better Singapore during the tumultuous times of pre-independence.

Adrian Pang was brillant in his portrayal of Mr Lee

Adrian Pang was brillant in his portrayal of Mr Lee

Au, on the other hand, while valiant in her efforts, was the cast’s weakest link, with her singing capabilities falling well short of the rest from the team. Even secondary characters such as Toh Chin Chye (played by Tan Shou Chen) and Goh Keng Swee (played by Edward Choy) sang with more gusto and better musical harmony. As the play wore on, it kind of felt that the writers had rewritten parts of the musical to accommodate Au, as her musical numbers were comparatively lesser to Pang’s, despite both actors given equal star billing.

Sharon Au as Madam Kwa and Adrian Pang as Mr Lee in The LKY Musical

Sharon Au as Madam Kwa and Adrian Pang as Mr Lee in
The LKY Musical

Other than Pang’s stirring performance, new-to-the-scene Benjamin Chow, who recently graduated from LASALLE College of the Arts, also put in a worthy and laudable performance for his portrayal as the musical’s anti-hero, Barisan Sosialis’ Lim Chin Siong. Alongside Pang, the two shared a chemistry that riveted throughout the play – not easy, when you consider that they were playing characters that were often at loggerheads with one another. In the space of just over two hours, the two have transitioned from quintessential BFFs to BFFNs. That said, the role of Lim was notably not consigned to being the prototypical baddie of a story. Lim was portrayed as a charismatic leader of the left-wing party, whom like Lee, had great hopes for Singapore. However, difference in ideology had forced them apart, bringing an end to what might be a harmonious political matrimony.

From quintessential BFFs to BFFNs

From quintessential BFFs to BFFNs

As the score goes, I do have an issue with it. Written and composed by Dick Lee, the musical score although charming, it does not entrance one enough to stick in your minds. I’m talking scores from productions where the musical numbers strikes the hearts (and ears) of the audience, with something so outstanding that it becomes synonymous with the production (cue Memory from Cats, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera from The Phantom of the Opera, and many more). The LKY Musical however, while pleasant, it was filled with non-memorable tunes and was largely forgotten once I stepped out of the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands.

Dick Lee was part of the creative team behind the production

Dick Lee was part of the creative team behind the production

On a whole, while the musical is a decent production, I wouldn’t give it a perfect score, though I would think it does enough justice to honour the legacy of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister. Personally, my favourite moment from the musical was Pang’s re-enactment of Mr Lee’s Proclamation of Singapore media conference in 1965. While the scene elicited some laughs from the audience (I honestly didn’t think that that was the intention of the production team – to create laughter in that scene), for me, it was an emotional and poignant reminder of a historic moment which Pang had managed to recreate. Playing such a multi-faceted character like Mr Lee is no mean feat, and Pang certainly did a commendable job. As for his co-star Au, while she bore the brunt of the criticisms, I do laud her effort and dedication to the role, having taking on method acting and staying on the set despite spraining her ankle on opening night.

Curtain Call (Photo Credits: METROPOLITAN PRODUCTIONS)

Curtain Call
(Photo Credits: METROPOLITAN PRODUCTIONS)

★★★☆☆