Oh...Peranakans play it safe

Oh...Peranakans play it safe
Cast member Shirley Kua (centre), 70, during a rehearsal for Oh...Singapore.

The cast and crew of Peranakan play Oh...Singapore are taking no chances when it comes to the supernatural, at least.

Friends and relatives are banned backstage. And before the show, co-producer Benjamin Seck goes onstage with a tray lined with incense, bananas, betel nuts and cigarettes.

"This is our way of appeasing any stage spirits, just in case they make our actors forget their lines," he says.

After all, the play reflects the quirks and superstitions of the Straits-born culture, and these rituals are typical of Peranakan productions, says Seck, a sixth-generation Baba, or Peranakan man.

The consideration for otherworldly affairs also gels with the older actors of the Peranakan production, which runs from next Wednesday to Oct 14.

"It makes all of us feel at ease, so we can deliver a smooth performance," says playwright Irene Ong, 60, who also acts in a segment. She adds that the rituals are similar to cast members' group prayers for safety before modern performances.

The 12-member cast from The Necessary Stage's Theatre for Seniors and Peranakan Siblings are between 54 and 77 years old.

The Peranakans are Straits-born Chinese and the descendants of early Chinese immigrants and native Malay women.

Seck, 40, is the chef-owner of True Blue Cuisine restaurant in Armenian Street. He, along with his playwright cousin Ong and director Najib Soiman, 36, will helm the play.

It comprises three stories. The first is of a Peranakan family moving into their new home by lugging along boiled water in a kettle and dirt in a dustpan from their old house to extend their luck.

Another is set in a museum, with an exhibit of mannequins dressed in Peranakan garb coming alive at night, as an extended metaphor of the culture's relevance in modern Singapore.

The third story is of three Nonyas (the Peranakan term for women) strolling around Gardens by the Bay, while keeping up a spirited commentary reflecting how an older generation tries to make sense of the island's sweeping changes.

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