Bus Hijack 1978

The Four Horse Road review

April 9, 2018, 0 Comments

If history has never been your favourite subject, why not try explore this unique site-specific production?

Audiences are encouraged to stow our belongings away in a locker in exchange for a little pouch to take along our valuables. My boys were curious and were kept in suspense in what is to come.

We were ushered in, and the story unfolded as we stepped back into 1978. We boarded a bus with a Malay driver not much older than 30 at the wheel, and a plump older man fast asleep somewhere at the back seat. We settled down as passengers and waited. Some of us fidget nervously as if to expect a wild dog to jump out of the blue. Out of a sudden, a commotion arose and the heated exchange between the bus driver and the teenage Malay man at the wheel tells us, all of us had become spirits after a bus accident killed us all. As the bus “sped” on, it became apparent that we are all going to “die” once again for our spirits to be released! It was the scariest ride we ever had on a “bus”! Thank goodness, my boys were safe! Facts had it that a unidentified man stole a SBS bus from Toa Payoh depot in that year but the spirit sightings were purely fictitious.

The intensity of this play!

Intertwining fact and fiction, the rest of the journey took us on foot as we travelled to various times and locations with signpost clearly displaying the years (Yr 1915 – Yr 1978) in which specific incidents happened.

At The Natina Home which was the former Japanese-run Toyo Hotel, we became”volunteers” of the home, and were treated with personal accounts told by the residents up-close.
Stories were retold in 3 languages – English, Chinese and Teochew in the cosy first floor of a building.  The Natina Home provided a place to live for Europeans detainees returning from India. After the Department of Social Welfare took over, it became a home for the aged and destitute.

At the back alley of the building, we witnessed an interesting episode of a Chinese hotel employee and an Indian temple worker, first as strangers and then sharing a friendly anecdote of their version of what “Guan Yin” meant. Fact has it that in 1870, Sri Krishnan temple and the Kwan Im Thing Cho Temple were built side by side. While chinese devotees offer prayers at the Sri Krishnan temple, the Hindu temple would put a big Chinese incense burner and an altar of Goddess or Mercy for the Chinese devotees inside Hindu temple. Singapore’s racial harmony and tolerance aptly highlighted in this scene.

My boys and I have limited knowledge of what happened during the Japanese occupation. But the narratives were so vivid and moving that we were drawn into the stories instantaneously.

Seated amongst other “guests” at May Blossom restaurant, I poured tea for the rest of the “guests” at my table. Thinking I could finally put my feet up after much walking, a commotion set everyone on the edge of our seats. A relaxed and gay ambience turned tersed when several guns were drawn. A mysterious gift revealed a conspiracy to free a leader of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).

Much research and effort have gone into this production. The Theatre Practise handed out program booklet in a form of newspaper, “Four Horse Road Times” at the end of the show. Historical events and its corresponding scene-by-scene synopsis fill up what we missed. So really, we won’t have to worry if we do not come armed with elephants’ memory of what we have read during our history lessons , or even with any knowledge at all! My elder boy who loves history can’t wait to read all the stories in “Four Horse Road Times” as soon as we got home!

I would have gone on to rave about the other bits of history we unearthed that night, but I’ll spare you the details! The suspense does make all the wait worthwhile! This is a superb show that casted many big names. Over 20 actors spoke more than 10 languages with accents to boot. It was entertaining, insightful and exciting as we discover Singapore’s past, locations and its intriguing stories.

  

Artistic director and award-winning theatre director Kuo Jian Hong and playwright Jonathan Lim were the brains behind this stellar production.  Each emotively – charged scene ran smoothly without a glitch and audiences are transported to the the era to relive the moment.  Games, food, stories galore – If only all history lessons are this electrifying!

“Four Horse Road” runs for about 2 hour and a reception is catered at the end of the show. Four Horse Road runs from 4 April to 28 April, 7.30pm at The Theatre Practise. Tickets are $68. 15% discount for group of 4. Suitable for upper primary and families. Get your tickets now!

https://www.sistic.com.sg/events/cfour0418

Photos credit : Tuckys photography, courtesy of The Theatre Practise

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