Immersive musical tour in Katong questions what it means to be Peranakan

A combination of performing arts and guided tour.

Joshua Lee | September 16, 2023, 06:34 PM


If you're looking for something to spice up your weekend, there's a new performance art tour that is taking place in Katong.

"Katong Dreaming: A Musical Tour" is an interactive production that uses musical theatre, site-specific performance, and tour guiding to bring you a story about Peranakan culture and traditions through the streets of Katong.

The production is the result of a collaboration between a diverse group of art practioners – producer Jamie Lee, composer Mark Tan, poet Marc Nair, music arranger August Lam, and choreographer Valerie Lim – and Betel Box Tours.

It is supported by the STB NAC Performing Arts Tour Pilot Grant (PATPG), which funds interesting experiences that marry guided tours and performing arts.

Second season of "Katong Dreaming"

This is the second season of "Katong Dreaming". The first season was held in early 2022.

Producer Lee told Mothership that back then, the group had to deal with some Covid-19 restrictions, which affected what they could produce for their audience.

This time, with no such restrictions to contend with, the show has more room to operate and improve from the first season.

"One feedback brought up by audiences and participants is that of food, and we now have the opportunity to incorporate this in Season 2," said Lee.

"What better way to win the hearts of our audiences than through the stomach?"

Participants can look forward to sampling rice dumplings and kueh kueh from heritage brand Kim Choo.

So what is different about this production?

"You’ll get to walk through parts of Katong that you won’t normally walk, nor find in tourist books," said Lee.

"We’ll take participants through the backlanes, behind the pretty facades, to see the real Katong, not just the pretty facades and gentrified sections of the locale."

This is central to the production that aims to deconstruct the popular opinion about what it means to be Peranakan, and what culture really is.

"You’ll be surprised that a portion of the street can become a stage for a performance, against the backdrop of structures rich in history," Lee explained.

"And there’s a kind of magic and mystery at dusk – scenes that one doesn’t normally find on material promoting Katong."

Participants will also be engaged through a mix of artistic mediums.

For instance, they will don silent disco headsets while touring.

Lee said this provides good quality audio without the need to lug around heavy amplifiers.

Another plus point is that the residents in the area will not be unduly disturbed.

"Katong Dreaming" also utilises a unique form of poetry called "twin cinema".

Invented by Singaporean poet Yeow Kai Chai in 2010, the poem takes the form of two columns, and it can be horizontally across columns or vertically, column by column.

Here is an example.

"It’s very Singaporean," said Lee, "because it is conscious of space, while succinct and efficient at the same time".

Lee hopes that participants will get to see Katong in a different light, beyond the "colourful houses basking in bright sunshine" and the "increasing gentrification of the space".

"And to view the phenomenon that is 'culture' beyond its typical definition."

If your interest has been piqued, you can head over here to book your tickets, which are available at S$68 a pop.

Shows run on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until end October for now.

Here's the trailer for the production, produced by Johan Lee:

All images courtesy of Katong Dreaming.