Initially, I wanted to write a piece on how if you’re into serious, emotionally heavy productions, you may not enjoy Army Daze. However, I realised I wasn’t being objective.
My first experience with Army Daze was in 1996 when the movie was first released. I was nine years old then, and I remember laughing non-stop throughout the movie. Fast forward to 2013 to Army Daze: The Musical. Throughout the entire performance, the only times I actually laughed out loud was whenever Chua Enlai took the stage as the Singlish-spewing Corporal Ong. Oh, and when Shane Mardjuki – who plays Kenny Pereira – sashayed onstage with a floral “camouflage.” To me, the other jokes and gags were simply not as funny.
However, I suspect it’s just me taking everything way too seriously. The audience, which consisted of mostly families and secondary school students, lapped it all up. They laughed, they cheered, they catcalled … basically, they were enthusiastically responding throughout the entire production. From a performer’s perspective, being able to feed off such vivacious energy from the audience must be very encouraging, to say the least.
It wasn’t just last Saturday’s audience that gave Army Daze a firm nod of approval. At the musical’s 25th anniversary production last year, every single ticket was snapped up. Not only that, Army Daze: The Musical is believed to be the most successful stage comedy in Singapore to date, having sold nearly 55,000 tickets over its various runs.
I guess the lesson learned for me is there’s room for all sorts of genres and productions in theatre, especially in a burgeoning arts scene such as ours. While my personal preferences lean towards dark, somber dramas like The Optic Trilogy or The Book of Living and Dying, I’m grateful for the wider spectrum of theatre offerings Singapore now has. I am also heartened to see more and more young people take an interest in theatre, because to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “theatre is the greatest of all art forms; it’s the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be human.”
The liberal usage of colloquial language in Army Daze combined with timely in-jokes on the haze and the NDP 2013 theme song is what makes this production endearing to Singaporeans. It may not be your high-brow, cerebral type of production but you know what? It never set itself up to be, so it’ll be wrong to critique it as such. If you’re looking to spend a lighthearted and entertaining two hours with your family, Army Daze delivers on both counts.
Army Daze is currently playing till 28 July at the Drama Centre. Get your tickets at Sistic now.
Note: The author was invited to review Army Daze by Running Into The Sun. 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. Her childhood ambition was to be an actress. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.
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