...No, I am most definitely not writing a post bumping my own show.
Who am I even kidding anyway. Yes, I am.
The Monster in the Mirror is a digi-theatrical musical by Bitesize Theatre Productions that follows Jane, a sixteen-year-old girl constantly tormented by self-doubt and criticism as she maneuvers through her final year of secondary school. One day, she is visited by a mythical being - the Fairy God Delivery Beng - who brings her inner voice to life and sends her on a journey of learning to love herself.
Now that you know the gist of the plot, let's move on to the bulk of the post.
I'm going to be honest right now and tell you, straight up, that I'm hoping to have convinced you to buy a ticket to the show by the end of the post. Not because I'm in it and it's nice to know that people actually watch things I'm in and I have a responsibility to promote the show, but because I genuinely do believe in its message wholeheartedly, and am fully invested in getting people to hear it. (But also I'm in it and it's nice to know that people actually watch things I'm in :) ) So here we go, this is me trying to explain why you should watch this show without divulging too much of the plot.
For starters, the musical is exceedingly well researched. The main themes discussed in the musical are mental health and self-love. But this isn't your typical poisoned-by-wokeism piece that throws the term 'mental health' around because it's "really in right now" and then makes some feeble attempt to address it halfheartedly. As the musical was being conceived and written, the Bitesize team actively consulted the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), discussing the issue at hand with professionals who were experienced in working with vulnerable youths, making sure they truly understood the subject matter and its importance. While progressing from script-read to script-read, I could almost feel the gargantuan deal of effort that had gone into capturing the experience of struggling with the issues presented accurately. Each draft brought me closer to understanding the multi-dimensional nature of mental health and the elusiveness of self-love.
Beyond the subject matter, the creatives were truly motivated to birth a piece that spoke to their target audience - preteens and teenagers. As a teenager myself, I can say that I automatically take the lines 'written for teenagers to watch' and 'targeting teenagers' with a full bucket of salt, because few things are less cringe-inducing than adults trying to mimic how teenagers speak by tossing in a few phrases of what they assume to be Gen-Z slang. But what I was most (pleasantly) surprised by was the team going out of their way to consult numerous teenagers to verify the accuracy of the lingo and how well the script resonated with them. The result? A script that was able to substantially encompass the complexity of being a teenager in 21st century Singapore (because, let's face it, not even a Tony/Obie/Olivier/Drama Desk-nominated script can ever fully encompass teenage-hood with all its emotional fluctuations).
On the more technical side of things, it has beautiful cinematography, lighting and an excellent score. Comprising primarily of gimbal shots, director of photography Mark Wee truly delivers with stunning footage and cleverly planned transitions, achieving the aim of creating a 'one-take' illusion while stage lighting designed by Alberta Wileo raises the stakes for every moment. Even while knowing the story back to front, my heart raced, dropped and ripped cleanly in two over the 90-minute-long emotional rollercoaster.
Though around half the length of most full-length musical soundtracks, Michelle Ler's music is toe-tappingly catchy, paired with lyricist Cheryl Chitty Tan's witty, even poetic, lyrics. The score is reminiscent of contemporary pop musicals, somewhere between Dear Evan Hansen and the more recent Disney movies - easy to pick up and fun to hum along to. With the opening number 'Pale Blue Horizon' lovingly dubbed by cast and creatives as "Singaporean 'Waving Through A Window'/Future NDP Song", you can be assured that its vibe is a familiar one to many. Despite tackling the intricate subject matter with vivid imagery and the occasional metaphor, the score remains committed to delivering Jane's struggle in words I can often hear echoing in my own head: 'I feel the walls close in around me / If I disappeared would I be missed?'
Script and music aside, it's authentic and honest. The Monster in the Mirror Musical was inspired by the insecurities and struggles of the creatives themselves, as mentioned on a radio interview in January, and that's what sets this show apart. At its very core is a genuine, personal story. It is the desire to share this personal journey of self-discovery and growth - and through it evoke real, positive change - that makes the show a compelling adventure to set out on, both as a cast member and as part of the audience. In fact, a lot of the scenes and dialogue were drawn directly from individual experiences of the creatives and cast, which allowed it to pack a huge emotional punch and hit so damn close to home. Bringing the characters and story to life forced each of us to unearth and grapple with the monsters deep inside us. And as the show developed throughout the rehearsal process, I found myself embarking on a very similar journey to Jane's - learning to accept, even quell, the critical, festering voice that threatens to overpower me every other day.
But beyond all this, what truly makes this show worth watching is its primary theme of learning to love yourself - not just the good parts, but also the parts of yourself you want to hide away. Facing our inner demons is a challenge we all undertake laboriously every single day - perhaps more so in teenage-hood, when we are most vulnerable and trying to find our footing in this great big world, but also at every other stage of our lives. At the end of the day, we're stuck with our own self, with all of its facets and convolutions, and it's up to us to come to terms with who we are. This is a notion that we all need to hear from time to time in a world where social comparison is one Instagram app away and boundless opportunities to berate ourselves exist: be kind to yourself.
And with its overwhelming, heartwarming message of love, The Monster in the Mirror Musical teaches us just that - "Yes, we will fail / It's not fairytale / It's far, far away / But we'll try every day / And if you fall, well then / I'll pick you up again".
The Monster in the Mirror Musical runs until 11 April, 11.59pm. Get your tickets here! Select 26 March as the show date - the ticket link sent to your email inbox entitles you to view it anytime until this Sunday, up to three times.
For school bookings, contact Devi at Gateway Theatre (firstname.lastname@example.org), for youth organisations bookings, contact Tanya (email@example.com).
If you watched it and love it, please spread the word - post about it on social media (tag @bitesizetheatreproductions!!), share it with your friends!
An original Bitesize Theatre production (@bitesizetheatreproductions on Instagram)
Developed under Gateway Arts Collective-In-Residence Programme 2020
Supported by digital and venue partner, Gateway Theatre
Tickets for The Monster in the Mirror Musical via SISTIC
Behind the scenes content, audience reviews, interviews, etc. on Bitesize Theatre Productions' YouTube Channel
More information on The Monster in the Mirror Musical, by Gateway Arts
Listen to The Monster in the Mirror Original Cast Album on Spotify