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Sunday, November 2, 2014

What If… A Review of I Theatre’s “Hop and Honk”

Written for Little Day Out, a Singapore-based media publisher for families with young children.

What if you have the opportunity to transform your destiny? What if the choices that you make in life actually have the power to influence your future happiness? What if life was not about where you were born, but about what you choose to become?

The lovely cast of "Hop and Honk". 4yo Z says that both Cygna and her adoptive mother are his "friends".
I Theatre’s Hop and Honk is an endearing tale of two friends, the Frog Anura who used to be a prince, and the Ugly “Duckling” Cygna, who is actually a swan. Rejected by the other frogs for being different, Anura suffers from a severe case of amnesia, and he cannot remember what life was like when he was born. Cygna is also on her own journey; she cannot understand why all the other ducklings think that she is ugly, and why all of them choose to ostracise her just because she is different.

Their chance meeting sets about a search for “The Land of No Differences”, a paradise where everyone is accepted for who they are; and where individuals can truly experience what it means to be a family.

Hop and Honk is not your conventional fairy tale. Although the play is based on two popular stories, Artistic Director Brian Seward created characters that are as unique as they are colourful. From the soft and gentle Anna Merganser, the loveable adoptive duckling mother of Cygna, to the malevolent Herodias the Heron, each character oozes his or her special charm. For instance the palace swans Macey and Lacey are annoyingly irritating with their narcissistic tendencies. And the weasels Chester and Lester send the audience into spasms of laughter with their humorous antics and slaps of brotherly affection. 

Hop and Honk fashions itself as a Broadway-style musical. In piecing together the production, Seward recruited renowned music composers Belinda Foo and Julian Wong to create tunes that are easy on the ears. When combined with the sweeping dance movements choreographed by Cathy Kee, the production sings. But it was the powerful vocals of Ethel Yap that stole the show. Playing the intelligent and brave Cygna, Yap’s performance will clearly not be her swan’s song.

No stranger to the local scene, audiences can count on I Theatre to weave in elements that they can identify with. There are scenes which touch on the local-foreigner divide and the teacher-parent conflict. And the themes of identity and self-awareness, family and belonging will resonate with audiences both young and old. Seward was also intentional in designing lovely sets and stitching together beautifully-outlandish costumes.

The proof of the pudding is always in the eating. Our 4-year-old son Z was enthralled throughout the 1/1/2-hour performance. He was particularly struck by the snow scenes that bore a resemblance to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake; and he seemed troubled during the scene when Cygna confronted Herodias, relating it to a scene from the ballet, where there was a fight between the Prince and the Sorcerer. 
Meeting an old friend. Actor Hang Qian Chou entertains the crowds in his weasel role.

Hop and Honk will be appearing at the Drama Centre Theatre (National Library Building) from now to 15 November. It  is recommended for families and specifically for those aged 4 to 104.

This story first appeared on local family portal Little Day Out. Click here for the story.

We interview Artistic Director Brian Seward to find out how he created this amazing musical from scratch, strating with the amalgamation of two famous fairy tales...  Click here for the story.

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