Arts & Events, Entertainment, Lifestyle

Lessons On Living Abroad From A Singaporean In Paris – Vanessa Tai

A Singaporean In Paris is about an aspiring singer’s experiences in the famed City of Love. But apart from charming French ditties, this musical also offers surprising insights into what to expect when you move overseas. 

According to a 2012 report from The Straits Times, the number of Singaporeans living overseas has increased exponentially. There are currently 200,000 Singaporeans living abroad, which is a 27 percent jump from the figures in 2003. If you’ve been toying with the idea of moving overseas – be it for work or studies or love – here are a couple of useful tips to live by.

1. Reality vs Expectations

Linden Furnell and Hossan Leong

Linden Furnell and Hossan Leong

In the opening scene of “A Singaporean In Paris”, Hossan Leong’s character KQ shares with the audience his excitement about moving to Paris. He dreams of seeing the sights, sipping coffee by a sidewalk cafe and biting into a buttery croissant. The reality? Paris is bitterly cold in the winter, his luggage gets lost at the airport, and there’s no sidewalk cafe in sight near his apartment (which, by the way, is on the seventh floor of a building that has no elevator).

But that’s just the way it is when you move to a foreign country, isn’t it? Everything is unfamiliar and takes getting used to. And even if things lived up to your expectations initially, reality will eventually start to sink in. There will be bills to be paid, groceries to be bought, and bureaucratic paperwork to contend with. The best way to deal, as KQ would tell you, is to maintain an upbeat and optimistic spirit. Throughout his one year in Paris, he rolled with the punches, and kept a good sense of humour.

2. Understand the culture

The music from French musical giants such as Charles Aznavour and Serge Gainsbourg is interspersed with KQ’s interactions with the locals. For example, in one scene, he shares how the French practice of kissing hello and goodbye is bewildering to him. In another, he talks about how he cooked fish head curry for his French neighbours, only to have them decline all other dinner invitations from him.

When you interact with people from a different culture, there are bound to be certain missteps, or as the French say, faux pas. That is to be expected and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it if it happens. Most people will understand when it’s a genuine mistake and be quick to forgive. Of course, it helps to read up on a country’s culture through books and Internet forums before moving there.

3. Make lots of friends

After clinching a job at a local cabaret, KQ develops a genuine friendship with the other people who work there. With his affable and good natured personality, he soon finds himself being the resident “shoulder to cry on”. Through revelatory songs like “He Must Have Been Eighteen” and “For Mama”, he starts to get a glimpse into his friends’ fears, hopes, and dreams. Special mention goes to Peter Ong, whose performance of “What Makes A Man” was equal parts moving and heartbreaking.

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Having lived overseas during my university years, I can attest to the importance of having a group of close-knit friends around you. It can be lonely living alone, especially during the winter months when most people return home for the holidays, so you’ll need a bunch of friends to keep you from wallowing in self-pity. During my time in Australia, I signed up for local netball leagues and volunteered at local film festivals. I was always kept busy and made plenty of new friends that way. If you’ve just moved overseas and are unsure where to start when it comes to meeting new people, I suggest checking out your local Meetup chapter to find interest groups you can join in.

It’s easy to see why A Singaporean In Paris had a sold-out run in 2010. The vibrancy of the music is matched only by the buoyancy of the cast, who did a good job of keeping the energy levels up throughout the one and a half hours. From the sounds of the audience roaring with laughter and clapping along to the music, it was evident that everybody was kept thoroughly entertained from start to finish. I know I was.

A Singaporean In Paris is now playing till 23 March and tickets are available at Sistic.

Note: The author was invited to review A Singaporean In Paris by Sing’Theatre. All opinions are the author’s own. 

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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Arts & Events, Lifestyle

MW Reviews: A French Kiss In Singapore

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There was a palpable sense of joie de vivre at the School of The Arts (SOTA) on Friday evening. Six Material World readers and their companions were treated to VIP tickets for the gala premiere of A French Kiss In Singapore, as well as the chance to have champagne and canapes with the cast after the show. It was a fun-filled evening, and that night, several readers even PM-ed us on Facebook to tell us how much they enjoyed themselves. We’re glad all of you had fun!

For those of you who’re still dithering whether you should catch the show, check out Deborah’s review of the 90-minute production:

Yet another first-rate performance from Hossan Leong.

Yet another first-rate performance from Hossan Leong.

“French music may perhaps be unfamiliar to many of us in Singapore but with the combined talents of George Chan, Hossan Leong, Robin Goh and Linden Furnell, you may just begin to develop an interest (or maybe curiosity) in the songwriters featured in this revue, and their works.

A French Kiss In Singapore begins with the songs by Charles Aznavour. A suitable opener considering that you may conclude – after the show – that his songs are the least memorable and entertaining of the lot. Songs by Charles Trenet of ‘Beyond The Sea’ fame, Serge Gainsbourg (singer/actress Charlotte Gainsbourg’s father) and Jacques Brel, who wrote ‘Seasons In The Sun’, follow and as familiarity surrounds the audience, you’ll sense a general warming up to the show and its performers.

George Chan’s choreography is a blinding mix of nifty footwork and comedic gestures. He effortlessly weaves in the use of props such as chairs and drums into his choreography so the audience’s eyes move along the entire length and breadth of the stage, creating a show that never once has a boring moment.

Special mention has to go to Hossan Leong. The actor is in his element here, assuming characters from an old man to a lollipop-loving young girl. The entire theatre never fails to light up in laughter whenever he comes on. It is his excellent comedic timing that makes A French Kiss In Singapore extremely entertaining. In their performance of Gainbourg’s controversial ‘Je t’aime … moi non plus’, the actor bravely takes on the part where Jane Birkin apparently contributed the throaty, erotic sounds in the background of the studio recording.

My favourite number in the entire show is ‘Madeleine’ (by Jacques Brel). Energetic, well-coordinated, hilariously funny, I guarantee your ears will still be ringing with its infectious melody the next day.A well thought-out performance, you’ll never have to worry about feeling out of your depth here. Many of the songs are performed in English so you can fully appreciate the lyrics and the word-play here. It is a 10/10 show and if you’ve never spent an extended period of time with French music, this is a great opportunity to get started.”

Two happy campers - Grace (left), Anne (right)

Two happy campers – Grace (left), Anne (right)

Over wine and canapes, 23-year-old reader Grace Yeoh (who was there with her sister) shared with us what she thought of the show:

“I don’t usually like musicals, but I really enjoyed A French Kiss In Singapore. Even though some of the songs were in French, there were quite a number of familiar tunes as well. My favourite song was ‘I Wish You Love’ – I found it very moving.”

Her sister, Anne Yeoh, 20, says, “I loved it! It was an entertaining production throughout, and all four cast members did a really good job. I especially loved the performance of ‘Wax Doll’, where they took turns to sing in different languages.”

A French Kiss In Singapore is currently playing till 7 December at SOTA. Get your tickets at Sistic now.

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Arts & Events, Lifestyle

A French Kiss With Material World – Vanessa Tai

There seems to be something about the festive season that makes people feel more lovey-dovey. The weather is cooler, people are more relaxed and there are many parties to attend! In fact, I won’t be surprised if more people get coupled up during this period than any other time in the year.

A French Kiss In Singapore is a musical revue that explores love in all its curious forms – from the love between mother and son to even the love between drinking buddies. Combining singing, dancing and sketches, this production stars local theatre stalwarts like Hossan Leong and Robin Goh, and is brought to you by the same team behind the sold-out musical “A Singaporean In Paris”.

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With music from France’s most popular contemporary musicians – Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Charles Trenet and Serge Gainsbourg – you just might find yourself bopping along to the familiar tunes. As director and choreographer George Chan says, “Don’t be scared off by the four French composers! Their songs have been translated into many languages; I’m sure a few of these songs will surprise you because they have been worldwide hits and no one knew they started out as French songs.” In this interview, George shares what else you can expect from A French Kiss In Singapore:

George Chan

George Chan

What can theatergoers in Singapore expect from this production?
Hossan Leong, Linden Furnell, Robin Goh and myself will be singing, dancing and charming our way into your hearts. This is a fresh collaboration that we are all excited about. Bang Wen Fu who created wonderful musical arrangements for shows like Forbidden City and Lao Jiu: The Musical will be helming the role of musical director. And I will be cracking the whip as dance choreographer.

Humour can be very particular to a certain culture, and may not translate well in another language or culture. How do you ensure the comedy in the production is universal enough to be appreciated by a wide audience?
I have directed many episodes of The Hossan Leong Show and most recently Kumar’s one-man show at the Esplanade. Even the humour between these two comedians are very different, so the writers and I always consider our audiences before creating the productions. No difference here.

Were there any funny or touching moments you and the team had during rehearsals?
This is the third theatre show I am working on with Sing’theatre. The late Emma Yong was in the last two productions with me and we had such a blast working together and learning French. I must admit, she was very much on my mind during the creation of A French Kiss In Singapore. One of the numbers in the show has been put together just for her and I am looking forward to sharing it with my fellow cast members and the audience.

Without giving too much away, tell us which is your favourite scene of the entire production and why?
It is a song written by Serge Gainsbourg called ‘I love you … me either’. It was sung by Gainsbourg himself and his then-lover, Brigitte Bardot. It caused quite a stir when it was released in 1967 because rumors were flying about that there was “heavy petting” going on in the recording booth. We will be presenting our own naughty version of the song and let’s just say there will be unbuttoned shirts and Hossan Leong doing his best moan!

Tickets for A French Kiss in Singapore are now on sale at http://www.sistic.com.sg

We are giving away SIX PAIRS of tickets to the opening night of A French Kiss In Singapore worth $3,000!

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You and a friend will get to enjoy the show before mingling with the cast and crew over cocktails and canapés! Here are the details:

DATE: 28 November 2013, Thursday
TIME: 7pm sharp (Please note that if your tickets are not collected by 7.30pm, the organiser reserves the right to release the tickets to someone else.)
VENUE: SOTA (School of the Arts) 1 Zubir Said Drive, Singapore 227968

Here’s how to win:

1. In the Comment section, answer this question: “Apart from A French Kiss In Singapore, name two other productions by Sing’theatre.”

2. Share this post on Facebook with your friends, and tag the friend you would invite to enjoy this production with. Remember to tag Material World’s Facebook on your post.

3. Click on this link to Like our Facebook Page. Only Material World’s followers qualify for this contest.

4. Private message us your details – name, age, gender, NRIC, and email address. State “A French Kiss In Singapore” in your message.

Contest ends November 18, 2013, Monday. Good luck!

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5 Reasons To Be Proud Of Singapore Today – Vanessa Tai

After reading the news about how 56 percent of Singaporeans want to migrate, I felt very sad. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit our country isn’t perfect but then again, which country is? Like everything else, we should take the good with the bad, and roll with it. Plus, there’s so much to love about our little island-state. No, I’m not talking about our world-class airport (are we still number one?) or our high safety standards or even our delicious local food. I’m talking about things that don’t usually get talked about when people share why they love Singapore, such as …

1. Our Burgeoning Arts Scene

A scene from the production Cooling Off Day, in 2012

A scene from the production Cooling Off Day, in 2012

In the past, theatre used to be quite a niche industry, attracting only a small population pool. However, in recent years, theatre has become more accessible with storylines that tug at Singaporeans’ heartstrings, such as Michael Chiang’s Army Daze or Alfian Sa’at’s Cooling Off Day. Hossan Leong recently proved that local theatre is alive and roaring with his sold-out production – Hossan-Ah: Celebrating 20 Leong Years. 

2. The Explosion Of Start-Ups

material world singapore-block 71

Block 71 – where budding tech entrepreneurs gather

If you ever had a doubt that Singapore is a hotbed for exciting new start-ups, take a trip down to Block 71 at the Ayer Rajah industrial estate. Home to over 80 tech-related companies such as venture funds, incubators, technology startups and video game firms, the atmosphere is thick with creativity. It’s little wonder then that Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has made Singapore his base. In an interview, Saverin shares that he was motivated to move here because of the “various entrepreneur programs and long list of government funding made available for startups.”

3. A Wider Acceptance Of Minority Groups

An aerial view of Pink Dot 2013

An aerial view of Pink Dot 2013

Pink Dot SG started in 2009 to lend a voice to the LGBT community in Singapore. In just four years, the event has grown to attract over 21,000 participants, all committed to the “freedom to love.” Apart from LGBT rights, other groups have also sprung up in recent years to support the rights of marginalised individuals. Some of these groups include Maruah, a human rights organisation as well as HOME, which assists migrant workers in Singapore.

4. Our Ability To Laugh At Ourselves

The cast of popular comedy TV series, The Noose

The cast of popular comedy TV series, The Noose

Whoever said Singaporeans don’t have a sense of humour? If the popularity of TV programmes like The Noose or books by Neil Humphreys are anything to go by, I’ll say we definitely have the propensity to laugh at our various quirks and idiosyncrasies.

5. A Commitment To Staying Active 

Join the Material World founders at this year's Great Eastern Women's Run!

Join the Material World founders at this year’s Great Eastern Women’s Run!

Judging by how the number of marathon participants increases every year, I think it’s safe to say Singaporeans are generally quite an active bunch. Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore – probably the nation’s biggest running event – is expecting 62,000 runners this year! That’s pretty insane, if you ask me. As for Material World, all four of us are taking part in the Great Eastern Women’s Run this November, and we’ll be raising money for Action for Singapore Dogs while at it. For more details, please email Denise at denise@materialworld.com.sg

Men love their country, not because it is great … but because it is their own.” – Seneca, Roman philosopher

What makes you proud of Singapore? Tell us in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Arts & Events, Lifestyle

10 Minutes With … Hossan Leong – Deborah Tan

HOSSAN_AH_PressA5_HiThis year, one of Singapore’s most recognisable faces in entertainement celebrates his 2oth year in show business with “Hossan-Ah! Celebrating 20 Leong Years!“. Material World caught up with multi-hyphenate Hossan Leong over high tea to talk about his years in entertainment and what we can expect from his newest baby, Double Confirm Productions.

1. 20 years! Congratulations! How has the entertainment scene changed over the years?

When I first started, the entertainment industry was still “SBC (Singapore Broadcasting Corporation) and a bit of theatre”. Back then, jobs were few and they didn’t pay very well. These days, although there are a lot more opportunities, the number of talents have also grown. So it’s more people fighting for jobs, and the money may not always be good.

 

2. What was the one pivotal moment of your career?

The decision to do stand-up comedy. It wasn’t something I intended to go into. Then one day, Ekachai (Uekrongtham), founder of Action Theatre, said, “Hey, why don’t you try stand-up comedy? Just try!” So I warmed up for “Hokkien Mee” – a monologue written by Desmond Sim. From there, came “Singapore Boy” and I started getting more bookings to do stand-up comedy. I must say it opened a lot of doors for me. I got more jobs as a result of this decision and I am so grateful that Ekachai saw that I had that potential in me.

 

3. Any regrets?

No regrets. Although I sometimes wonder what would have been if I had studied theatre. Years ago, I applied to study theatre at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, Australia (same school where Cate Blanchett studied). At my audition, Mr Tony Knight said this to me, “You have work in Singapore, why do you want to spend 3 years in NIDA studying theatre? It’s not like you’d be guaranteed more jobs just because you are a NIDA graduate.” I did not eventually get into NIDA.

Now, Mr Knight is the Dean of the Head of Musical Theatre at Lasalle College of the Arts, and he’s asked me to direct the school’s graduation play next year. The feeling how we both could meet again after so many years to work on something was quite … magical. But I have no regrets about my life and my career.

 

4. How do you deal with the issue of typecasting in your career?

Obviously, I was never going to be the leading man type. I’ve always played the geek, the nerd or the funny sidekick. I read a book once about typecasting. It said how instead of resenting the fact that you keep getting typecast, you should embrace your type and make it work for you. I think the sooner you come to peace with that, the better you are going to feel about your type and work on making it your best product.

 

5. What can the audience expect from “Hossan-Ah! Celebrating 20 Leong Years!”?

It is going to be an intimate performance, with me commemorating the influences in my career. I was trained in classical piano and I’ve been going back for piano lessons because the show is mostly going to be me singing and playing the piano. I’ll be remembering the people and situations that have left a mark, such as Barry Manilow and the French culture. Part of the proceeds of the Saturday matinee shows will go towards Arc Children’s Centre because I want to help the centre and the kids who go to it in-between their medical appointments and school.

 

6. Tell us more about Double Confirm Productions.

 It’s a creative consultancy agency, we bring to life a client’s idea for his event. It’s not an artiste management agency although we do act as a go-between when a host or a talent is required for the event. Check out www.youtube/DoubleConfirmSg or our Double Confirm Productions FaceBook page!

 

“Hossan-Ah! Celebrating 20 Leong Years!” opens at Drama Centre Theatre on 1 August 2013. Tickets are available on Sistic. Click here to buy your tickets now! Part of the proceeds from the Saturday matinee show will go towards ARC Children’s Centre.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits, and has the greatest respect for people who stick by their passions and follow their dreams … Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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