G*d is a Woman

by Joel Tan
Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre, Singapore

August turned out to be a whirlwind month of Singapore theatre for me and ended, rather appropriately, with a revival of Joel Tan's Mosaic, a witty, darkly humorous tale of forgotten spaces and millennial angst. Tan has lost none of his razor-sharp wit in this latest play, a spicy political satire directed by Ivan Heng and presented by WILD RICE, which digs its claws sharply into arts censorship, complaint culture and social media activism. 

It revolves around a fictitious Singapore festival director who has had the headlining work of his arts festival, God is a Woman, censored by the authorities due to some nudity. His friend, a playwright, is appalled and decides to channel his umbrage into writing a fake online petition in the voice of a "concerned citizen" to cancel an upcoming Ariana Grande concert that happens to bear the same name. "Please respect God's pronouns", it earnestly argues. 

This very fake petition ends up having very real consequences when it goes viral online and is seized by both liberals and conservatives to further their agendas. One camp rails against the destruction of religious values and suggests rewriting the lyrics of Grande's offending song. The other champions the freedom of artistic expression and encourages everyone to break free from the shackles of censorship. The government gets involved and, to nobody's surprise, everything is dealt with swiftly, decisively and expediently. 

The theme of censorship has been explored many times in local theatre but Tan manages to bring an entirely fresh perspective to the issue that taps into the social media frenzy and woke activism of our times while making us question what art really is and who has the right to decide this.  

Things tend to drag in the second half and while I found some of the cheeky references a little on-the-nose, it's impossible not to be charmed by this uproarious ensemble. The nudge-wink references and deliciously diverse characters are perfectly portrayed by the four actors and Heng orchestrates the scenes to perfection. 

This is a play that is as entertaining as it is sobering, reminding us that the fight to defend art is a long and hard one. We just need to keep on keeping on.

The Crystalwords score: 4/5


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