The Nightingale [Theatre Review]

This March holiday, bring your little ones to watch a beautiful play from the captivating story The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen. This story teaches children to treasure their friendships and to have courage to seek their dreams.

Set in Imperial China, the Emperor of China seeks to find out what the best thing about his country is. His cousin reveals that it is a unique animal, the Nightingale, that holds the key to answering that question.

When the Emperor of China eventually meets the Nightingale, and hears her beautiful song, he becomes obsessed with keeping her locked up. However, after experiencing various ups and downs, he eventually learns that the expression of love and friendship should always be a choice made voluntarily by both parties, and not through force.

True to its roots as a children’s tale, The Nightingale boasts many elements that make it particularly interesting to children. These elements include the play’s audience engagement, costume and props, set design and music.

Audience Engagement

Like most children’s shows, The Nightingale has its fair share of interaction with the audience. The Lord Protector starts off by asking the audience for help with his Nightingale hunt – you would be hard pressed not to smile as you hear the younger audience shouting their responses enthusiastically.

Besides helping him on his quests, the audience is also encouraged to sing and clap along with the songs, immersing themselves in the wonderful musical world.

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The Cast of The Nightingale

Costume and Props

The first thing that stands out the moment the show starts are the colourful costumes. The light catches onto the vivid blue, green, yellow and red costumes as the actors dance across the stage. The actors also add a little modernity to the mix by including shiny pom-poms and scarves in their dance routines.

The interesting use of the set saw the performers using shadowplay to tell the story. This added dimension of shadowplay gave that much more value and richness to the play as a whole.

Set Design

Although the space and backdrops are limited, the actors are able to use their set creatively to transport the audience to various locations, such as the Emperor’s room, the Palace corridors, and the forest. The corridor scene makes use of shadow puppetry to allow for a quick succession of different characters to appear, and the transition from character to character is seamless.

The Emperor’s room design stands out in hindsight, especially after he compares his room to the Nightingale’s cage. The moment of revelation when one realises the similarities in appearance between the two makes the set design even more impressive, especially to young audiences.


The Nightingale features songs from local composer Ruth Ling. The play boasts a traditional score from opera influences, traditional Chinese-inspired music, and most importantly, catchy tunes reminiscent of current popular children songs. This is sure to entertain and engage children from all backgrounds.

A song that will probably be stuck in your head even after the show would be “Hurray for the Emperor of China”. As the opening song that is repeated throughout the show, its unforgettable tune will have you singing along with the rest of the audience.

The most interesting, and hilarious song though, would have to be when the Lord Protector (played by Erwin Shah Ismail) goes on a journey to find the nightingale. Erwin’s fantastic performance and strong stage presence will keep your eyes glued on him, whether he is singing, dancing, or simply responding to other characters.

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The Cast of The Nightingale

With that being said, no one can top the performance put up by the Nightingale herself (played by Kimberly Chan). Kimberly’s beautiful, haunting voice resonates through the room, doing the Nightingale’s reputation justice, and keeping the audience enthralled.

Tickets are selling fast so do snag yours before they are all gone!

The Nightingale
When: 7 March – 20 April 2018.
*7th of April, 11am is a signed performance for the benefit of patrons who use sign language.
Where: KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT
Tickets: $26 – $49 (Tickets on sale at, or call 6348 5555)
Language: English
Discounts: 25% Discount for SRT’s 25th Anniversary Promotion, with any 2 tickets purchased. (All Categories)

Co-written by: Philis Ang and Rennes Lee.