Timeless Tales: Directors speak out about blending Shakespeare and social media, and more

Get set for an event in Singapore blending classic tales with contemporary tropes in a seamless showcase - a reflection of the Lion City itself!

Production Team (L to R) Himanshu Motial, Tanvi Kothary, Prashant Agarwal, Shalima Motial, Anindita Ghosh, Arpana Sarkar, Sumati Nagrath, Vartika Singh Khattri, Dreamy Somani, Deepika Rajani, Emillie Borrel Annarella, Missing in picture: Meher Motial (Timeless Tales Part 101)
Production Team (L to R) Himanshu Motial, Tanvi Kothary, Prashant Agarwal, Shalima Motial, Anindita Ghosh, Arpana Sarkar, Sumati Nagrath, Vartika Singh Khattri, Dreamy Somani, Deepika Rajani, Emillie Borrel Annarella Photo courtesy: Timeless Tales

With less than three weeks till the Timeless Tales Theatre Fest kicks off, we caught up with the directors of the seven showcases to find out what are the unique aspects of their various productions, how the contemporary twists might unfold and why they are at the helm.

Singapore is no stranger to the theatre, with a rich and diverse cultural scene and year-round performances. Tickets to the latest endeavour produced by Dream Catchers Vision and Arclight Productions are fast selling out.

List of Directors

Teresa R Alvarado - My Beer Lady

Sonali Mehta - O’Hello

Susie Penrice Tyrie - Oliver with a Twist

TJ Taylor and Luka Antony - Once Upon a Like

Hemang Nanda Yadav - Puraan Residences

Anindita Ghosh - Saving Charming

Gavin Low - Greater Expectations

My Beer Lady team (L to R, top row) Teresa (Director),  Federico Balmas, with Festival Directors Anindita & Shalima. Missing in picture: Heather Mullins
My Beer Lady team (L to R, top row) Teresa (Director), Federico Balmas, with Festival Directors Anindita Ghosh and Shalima Motial. Missing: Heather Mullins. Photo courtesy: Timeless Tales

C to I: What did you find to be the most unique aspect about the blend of classic tales with contemporary twists?

Teresa R Alvarado: I fell in love with My Beer Lady at first sight. It is a post-modern version of Pygmalion. In this version, a Bohemiam artist secretly creates a sculpture out of beer cans and falls in love with her ..then his wife Amy finds out... It was in the middle of the production when I had the confirmation of how "alive" and relevant this classic tale is. I remember that I was looking for Beer Lady. I thought that it would be a good idea to get a doll to be dressed up with beer cans, so I checked so many website pages looking for it. Suddenly an entire new world opened to me! There are so many people in there (guys) buying and selling dolls...and they look so damn real. Some of them are even able to follow a conversation about philosophy and tell jokes!! Some men live with these dolls as if they are real wives or girlfriends. The problem is they are so expensive. Then I discovered cheaper ones but they were second-hand dolls...and well....that was not an option!

Sonali Mehta: Blending the classic with the contemporary is always interesting. It’s a reaffirmation of the universality of the human condition. We have penicillin and smart phones today as opposed to Shakespeare’s time but they don’t make the pain of betrayal any less agonizing. By using contemporary setting, someone like Shakespeare becomes more accessible to the layperson. The setting and the era are mere window dressing to universal truths.

Susie Penrice Tyrie: A new way of looking at stories we have loved  …. yet thought we knew!

TJ Taylor: It allows everyone who knows these classic tales to enjoy them again in a new way through more contemporary storytelling and relatable themes.

O'Hello (L to R) Neeraj Sujanani, Leah Fellstad, Sonali Mehta (Director), Shalima & Himanshu Motial
O'Hello (L to R) Neeraj Sujanani, Leah Fellstad, Sonali Mehta (Director), Shalima and Himanshu Motial. Photo courtesy: Timeless Tales

Hemang Yadav: Classic plays are not always rooted to their time and context. A lot of times they have universal elements. This is especially the case with mythology. When giving them a 'contemporary twist' we sometimes free them from their context of tradition and show their relevance to modern times.

Anindita Ghosh: ‘Finally! Someone admits the shallowness of women leading fairy tale lives and the absurdity of some of our age-old stories’ - a line from Saving Charming that says it all. As much as we all love our fairy tale princesses, it’s time to redefine the characters of the leading ladies to strong independent women capable of accomplishments at work, home and for society.

Gavin Low: Classic tales are often classic for a reason. They are timeless, and they speak about the human condition. That is why we can still relate to them. Having contemporary twists to classic tales is like revisiting the familiar, building a bridge between past and present.

C to I: What is the object lesson you would like the audience to learn from your production?

Teresa R Alvarado: I am an incurable optimistic. To me "My Beer Lady" is all about a long-term couple, Amy and Marco going through a crisis. Crises are inevitable for any couple and it sometimes is very difficult to work it out... should we be able to forgive, to be flexible, to be more generous towards our partner?  or should be let our partner go?

Sonali Mehta: The 90s gave birth to the Metrosexual – the male who was masculine enough to be the sole breadwinner and gentle enough to change his baby’s diapers.   But O’hello..o!! The new millennium belongs to the Technosexual. He who controls technology rules the world. So, the moral of the story is be tech-savvy. Not fortune’s phishing fool!

Oliver with a Twist  (L to R) Shalmalee Vaidya, Dee Allan, Ruth Mannion, Dee Dee, Mark Seow, Dew M. Chaiyanara
Oliver with a Twist (L to R) Shalmalee Vaidya, Dee Allan, Ruth Mannion, Dee Dee, Mark Seow, Dew M. Chaiyanara. Photo courtesy: Timeless Tales

Susie Penrice Tyrie: We would like the audience to be entertained …  and, through laughter, see that sometimes we need to rest our egos.

TJ Taylor: That social media can create a dangerous world of unattainable beauty standards and an addiction to be liked or acknowledged.

Hemang Yadav: Classic plays are not always rooted to their time and context. A lot of times they have universal elements. This is especially the case with mythology. When giving them a 'contemporary twist' we sometimes free them from their context of tradition and show their relevance to modern times.

Anindita Ghosh: Saving Charming hopes to be an inspiring tale for young girls (and boys) through wholesome entertainment including music, dance & action!

Once Upon A Like (L to R) Tony Tong, Isabelle Demaude-Yau, Sunyoung Oh, Sharon Mah, Katie Walker. Missing TJ Taylor & Luka Antony (Directors)
Once Upon A Like (L to R) Tony Tong, Isabelle Demaude-Yau, Sunyoung Oh, Sharon Mah, Katie Walker. Missing TJ Taylor & Luka Antony (Directors). Photo courtesy: Timeless Tales

Gavin Low: No object lesson. Just have a good time! And maybe check out the original source material. My production is a twist on Dickens’ classic, Great Expectations. While rehearsing with my actors, we discovered how ‘soap opera’ the original Dickens story is!

C to I: Which plot twists have made the production more interesting and relevant in today's world?

Teresa R Alvarado: I think it is so relevant because it is about infidelity which is a problem many middle-aged couples face. The hilarious thing is that in this case the "object of desire" is not a real person but a sculpture made of... beer cans. How would you react if you catch your husband about to cheat on you and getting “real” serious with such "fake” girl?

Sonali Mehta: The unexpected is so much more exciting than the ho-hum of everyday. The unexpected is like throwing a googly – to use a cricket analogy. It keeps you on your toes – an apt metaphor for life on earth today. We have used noir as the medium for O’Hello! The duality of how you perceive yourself as opposed to how the world perceives you makes for an interesting tapestry of life as we see it today.  Like the FB syndrome where you’re determined only post pictures that show the world how rocking your life is but well, only your passport picture reveals the true you!

Puraan Residences (L to R) Pramila Pam, Hemang Yadav (director), Gillian Tan, Aiswarya Nair, Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, Md Amin Md
Puraan Residences (L to R) Pramila Pam, Hemang Yadav (director), Gillian Tan, Aiswarya Nair, Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, Md Amin Md. Photo courtesy: Timeless Tales

Susie Penrice Tyrie: That Dickens’ work still applies today – the quest to eliminate need due to greed and self-absorption.

TJ Taylor: The step, other and ugly sisters have become social media celebrities and poor Cinderella just has an average following. Hopefully, audiences will be able to relate to Cinderella even more and see by the end that being an influencer is not all it seems to be.  

Hemang Yadav: I would like to share my love and interest in Indian mythology with the audience. If they recognise the characters, they experience the pleasure of familiarity. If they don't, I hope they would be intrigued enough to go find out the original story of these characters. At the same time, I believe these stories were not meant to just tie us to our past and our traditions, but rather encourage us to question tradition when necessary and improve the lives of our fellow human beings.

Anindita Ghosh: While most fairy tales have Prince Charming saving the damsels in distress - our tale has our kick-ass princesses ‘Saving Charming’! How? Come watch us to know!

Saving Charming (L to R) Shalima Motial, Inya Kang, Anindita Ghosh (Director), Stacey Riley, Elaine Siow
Saving Charming (L to R) Shalima Motial, Inya Kang, Anindita Ghosh (Director), Stacey Riley, Elaine Siow. Photo courtesy: Timeless Tales

Gavin Low: Our production, Greater Expectations, definitely has been updated to become more relevant to today’s world. But we can’t give it away, or it wouldn’t be a twist anymore! However, I do think that relationships are universal. All of us want to be loved, and all of us have the propensity to hurt, however unwittingly. This is we explore in our play, in a fun and comical way, of course.

C to I: Any other message you have for readers about the production.  

Susie Penrice Tyrie: It’s a fresh and fun look at traditional tales and maybe after seeing the plays, we might feel inspired to pick up a book and reacquaint ourselves with some of the greats in literature!

TJ Taylor: Come to enjoy and experience another world and immerse yourself in the classic tales we all know and love.

Anindita Ghosh: Any ideas/suggestions about the theatre festival are welcome. Timeless Tales content has been specially curated for all ages of the audience - in line with our ‘family theatre’ initiative. We have plays especially for young kids, for teens, for adults as well as for seniors. So come and enjoy a theatrical experience with your whole family!

Gavin Low: Come with an open heart and enjoy the plays!

Greater Expectations team (L to R) Preston Lim, Tanvi Kothary, Gavin Low (Director), Susie Penrice Tyrie, Stacey Riley. Missing in picture: Sumati Nagrath
Greater Expectations team (L to R) Preston Lim, Tanvi Kothary, Gavin Low (Director), Susie Penrice Tyrie, Stacey Riley. Missing in picture: Sumati Nagrath. Photo courtesy: Timeless Tales

TIMELESS TALES – A FAMILY THEATRE FEST
Venue: Black Box, Goodman Arts Centre, Singapore
Show Dates: 2019 Jan 25 – 8pm, Jan 26 – 4pm and 8pm, Jan 27 – 4pm and 8pm

Author
Tushaar Kuthiala
Tushaar Kuthiala – Associate Editor

Tushaar has extensive experience as a journalist and in founding two start-up newspapers. He has developed editorial models for both involving editing, both copy and content, as well as writing articles, news reports and fiction. He is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College and earned a post-graduate diploma in TV Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai. He has worked as a special correspondent based in New Delhi with Daily World, an international media organisation. 

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