Thursday, April 5, 2007

Ad Nauseam

Hey everyone,

The show opens in 45 minutes. As I'm sure everyone's aware, we had a front-page story in Life! today, by Hong Xinyi. We also had an interview with Reuters last night from a very cool Egyptian lady who's covering arts and lifestyle for the whole of East Asia. (I agree: wah lau.)

AND - we're sold out.

I know. I couldn't believe it when I heard the news. 15 shows, including matinees.
I hadn't even bought the discounted tickets for my siblings and my best friends. Which means that only strangers are going to watch my piece.

I am a bundle of nerves. I mean, it's illogical - the actors have far more right to be paranoid than I. But I feel cut off, impotent from the development of the play from now on - I was so nervous last night, I woke up at 5am and couldn't sleep. I feel like vomiting and pushing my face into a meat grinder (although come to think of it, that means my brains and my puke would get mixed into the same protein shake, which seems unbecoming somehow). I was biting my own arms last night while watching bits of the run.

The very least I can say, though - is that all this publicity has been a theatrical experience in itself. And going by ticket sales, it's been a very successful one.

God, I hope everything goes well. Cross my heart and hope to swallow if I blow chunks.

Ooh, here's the article from Reuter's, plus a bad photo of the nice journalists:

Whore or hero? Singapore porn star's life on stage
By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE, April 5 (Reuters Life!) - Few Singaporeans have courted controversy like sex star Annabel Chong, but a new play about her life which opens on Thursday aims to reveal the person behind the pornography.

"251" is named after Chong's most famous film, "The World's Biggest Gang Bang", in which she set a world record for engaging in 251 sexual acts with around 70 men over a 10-hour period in January 1995.

Starring, produced and directed by Singaporeans, the play also marks a milestone for this city-state which has long
considered Chong a pariah and where oral and anal sex, as well as pornographic films, are banned.

"Singapore has definitely opened up much more in terms of what it's willing to allow on stage," said playwright Yi-Sheng
Ng, who has been fascinated by Chong's life since he heard about her infamous film as a teenager.

"She's an icon, a figure of the taboo, of doing that which is forbidden and scandalous in Singapore, she's one of our country's great anti-heroes," he told Reuters.

Chong, born Grace Quek, was born in 1972 to a conservative Christian family in Singapore, where she excelled at some of the country's top schools. While studying law in London on a government scholarship, she was gang-raped in a rubbish tip.

Aged 21, she went on to do graduate studies in California and then started working in adult films. Today, she still lives in the United States, where she is a Web designer, and refuses to talk to the media about her days as Chong.

"251" is the second biographical production about the actress, who is perhaps one of Singapore's best-known exports.

In 1999, a U.S. film student produced a documentary titled "Sex: The Annabel Chong Story", which was nominated for a Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival the same year.

The film, which highlights her substance abuse and tendencies towards self-harm and depression, is also banned in Singapore.

Loretta Chen, the director of "251" which is produced by Toy Factory, said government authorities had vetted the script and laid down some "guidelines" that included toning down some of the language as well as ruling out nudity and scenes that depicted group sex.

But she said the staging of the play showed Singapore's government was also changing with the times.

"Ten years ago, this would not have happened, but with the Internet and the accessibility of porn today, this forces the authorities to address such issues," she said.

Chen, who got Quek's blessings, hopes audiences will come out of the play realising that Chong was a product of Singaporean values, as well as "a person with family, friends and feelings".

"When I started researching, I got intrigued with the idea of her being a national hero ... someone who dared to break boundaries," she said. "The only reason she is not considered a hero is because what she did was a sexual act and we don't consider that to be heroic in any way."


Anonymous said...

It's sad that all it take are sex and nudity for a local play to sell out before opening show.

The above is not a comment on the quality of the play itself.

Ng Yi-Sheng said...

I actually agree. There are plenty of good shows (e.g. The Theatre Practice's Poor Theatre series) which go unnoticed because they don't market themselves well. Toy Factory's very savvy at selling seats, often with promises of sex and nudity (see Cabaret, Bent, Shopping and Fucking, Fireface, East Side Story...)

Often, it's the cheap productions which don't sell well, because they don't have the budget or connections for publicity. I'm actually trying to set up a website to advertise free or affordable theatre at - hopefully that'll improve things.