Sunday, February 24, 2008

Propaganda doesn't look like propaganda if you present it as a hilarious satire. In the DS Dollies' History of S'pore, few sacred cows survive intact by the end of the show. Every S'porean's pet peeves get some air time -- en bloc woes, personal taxation, parking enforcement, neighbourly relations, even the issue of ministers' salaries, all dressed in an amazing variety of colourful costumes, set to catchy beats and slick dance numbers, and slain upon the altar of uproarious, raunchy comedy.

The DS Dollies themselves are wonderfully energetic and versatile with their characters. With quick-change costumes and accents, they play a roughly chronogical series of vignettes involving a multitude of our favourite historical working-class stereotypes (and the occasional world leader). From pirates of the high seas, to the women entrepreneurs of the leisure and entertainment industry, to the samsui women, to the colour-blind kampong aunties, we get the sense that our current concerns are nothing new. Like we do today, our predecessors too could have faced rising costs, unsympathetic public officials, unequal income distribution between the leadership in comparison with everyone else.

As the sacred cows fall one by one, oddly enough we discover that it isn't unpatriotic to air our worries in public, or to laugh and poke fun at ourselves and our foibles. By the end of the show, we audience members are singing along with the Dollies' renditions of national songs, many of us waving our national flags (they handed each of us one during the interval) in time with the music. Despite our grouses about life in S'pore, we are still proud to be S'poreans.

But most of all, we're proud that even growing up in "straitlaced" S'pore, there's still enough homegrown talent to create the music, dance and comedy that make the DS Dollies franchise such a success.

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