BijI Mata Mak
By Gunong Sayang Association
Set in post-war Singapore, Biji Mata Mak (loosely translated to Mother’s Pet) is a rewrite of an old, venerated Peranakan play by the same name. It recounts the story of an elderly Baba Nyonya, Bibik Bong Neo. It is a tear jerking narrative about a mother’s love, sacrifice and pain when she is beset with an ungrateful son.
More than just a story about familial issues, the play presents the rich and coloured Chinese Peranakan world in such vividness that it will seem almost overwhelming. Their attention to detail in terms of dressing and mannerisms is excellently executed.
Kelvin Tan, playing the lead, does a magnificent portrayal of a suffering mother and a Peranakan matriarch. Following the steps of traditional Peranakan theatre, other cross-gendered casting choices, such as the humorous Lee Yong Min as Ah Foon, provide a glimpse into a culture and practice that has persisted for many years.
Perhaps the most distinctive quality of this play is its use of Peranakan patois. The characters of the play speak, cry and joke in fluent Peranakan patois, a mix of Malay, Hokkien and English that is rarely heard anymore. While it may be hard for those who don’t understand their intricate lingo, the language was essential in deepening the sense of culture and ‘Peranakaness’ that the play seeks to represent.