Thursday, September 08, 2005

Belom Mati Belom Tau - Gunung Sayang Association Wayang Peranakan 2005

Belom Mati Belom Tau

Its the time of the year again when Gunung Sayang Association produce its annual Wayang Peranakan stage at The Victoria Theatre this year production titled Belom Mati Belom Tau.The playwright GT Lye will provide the audience with a glimpse into a typical Peranakan household of the 60s. Also anthroplology affcionados will get a glimpse how Peranakans of the old days mourn their love ones, along with the fashion and culture of their time.

The poster of the play shows a black and white sarong worn during mourning periods also pearl kerosangs and silver chocok sanggul (chignon hair pins).

Press Review for Belom Mati Belom Tau

A Peranakan's progress Veteran playwright passes on customs of his culture in his latest play

By Hong Xinyi

PLAYWRIGHT G.T. Lye finds himself getting nostalgic each time the annual drama production put on by Peranakan association Gunong Sayang comes around in September. After all, the stage is about the only place where Peranakan culture is the most vibrant these days, says the renowned female impersonator. For the past 20 years, the 67-year-old has been directing and scripting this annual event, as well as acting in it, for Gunong Sayang. Founded in 1910 to promote Peranakan, or Straits Chinese, culture, the association has put on a Peranakan production every year since 1985.

This year, Lye, a retired businessman, wrote a play titled Belom Mati Belom Tau (You Wouldn't Know Because You're Not Dying). Set in 1960s Singapore, it tells the story of a sickly Peranakan matriarch and her scheming family. Lye, who is also the director, plays the role of the matriarch's eldest daughter-in-law, who tries to hoard the family's wealth. The two-hour-long play will include scenes where the Peranakan rituals of mourning are re-enacted for the audience.

''Peranakan women wear attire of different colours for different phases of the mourning period,'' he elaborates. ''They are also not allowed to wear gold jewellery, and they can't attend weddings, birthdays or any joyous occasion.''

His exhaustive attention to such details is a rarity in the Peranakan community these days.''The younger generation also finds practices like ancestral worship too tedious and time-consuming,'' Lye says, with a tinge of wistfulness in his soft voice. He tries to keep Peranakan culture alive by including such rituals in his plays, and also by ''creating stories where I can educate the younger generation, and remind the older generation of things they have forgotten''.

For Belom Mati Belom Tau, his message, not surprisingly, is the value of filial piety. But in the field of female impersonation, at least, the bachelor need not be worried. Kelvin Tan, a Peranakan, has been learning the ropes from Lye for the past three years, and the latter pronounces the 36-year-old quite a competent successor. ''It was rather rough in the beginning to get the hand movements and way of speaking right,'' says Tan, a civil servant. But what keeps him going, he says, is his fascination with the play's recreation of a 1960s Peranakan lifestyle. ''It gives me a chance to experience an era I never had a chance to live in,' says Tan.'' It's really an eye-opening experience, and it gives all of us from the younger generation a lot of pleasure.

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