Getting up close with Karung Guni Boy

A man and a woman standing in front of a poster backdrop showing various shows.
Gohpi and Barbara!

SADeaf continues our adventures in the arts sphere! After our past (and on-going) collaborations with the National Museum and Asian Civilisation Museum in supporting accessibility, we ventured into the theatre scene. Karung Guni Boy was part of the Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts 2022 and “created in consultation with The Singapore Association for the Deaf” as the publicity put it.

And here’s the noteworthy part – it was “performed in Mandarin, English, with some Malay, Tamil and Hokkien (and) all performances will be narrated in Singapore Sign Language, with open captioning in English.” And this was where SADeaf came into the picture. Our staff Barbara D’Cotta and Gohpi Nathan were engaged by the production team to advise on accessibility issues and incorporating sign language.

A heartwarming tale about community, caring and recycling, Karung Guni Boy was also multi-lingual, multicultural, diverse (in terms of cast), interactive, inclusive, and had catchy songs and raps. Phew! That seemed a lot to take in. But it all came together in a cohesive and compact whole – befitting a show meant for younger kids (and adults with young hearts). Highlights: The eye-catching set design, in which the attention to detail was evident in the hanging clothes and plants and lights of different hues making up the HDB-flat/corridor backdrop as well as the exquisite puppetry (especially Fluffy the dog).

Now, what were the provisions for Deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences? There was closed captioning – via a discreet LCD panel positioned centrally – and reserved seats for our community who would benefit from or need this. Sign language was directly and seamlessly incorporated into the play via Evelyn Chye (tripling up as cast member, narrator and sign language interpreter). The ending scene – in which the entire cast performed the finale song in sign language with gusto – was a sheer delight!

Many thanks to the director Tan Beng Tian and the excellent cast who, as Gohpi noted, picked up sign language with impressive ease. Our appreciation goes, too, to the Esplanade community engagement staff Khairun and Karmen for hosting us to the first show on 19 February 2022.

p/s: Check out the photos of the show by Isabelle Lim (a professional photographer who is Deaf and was commissioned for this assignment).

p/s: For Gohpi and Barbara, both of whom used to be involved with the now defunct Hi! Theatre, taking part in this production brought back many fond memories too!

p/s: Last and not least, do check out the Esplanade’s Accessibility page – which includes information on the Ticket Concession Scheme for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

By Alvan Yap, Editorial Team, Signal

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