Lighter Side: Taking the microphone stand at Karaoke Court

by Miklos Bolza24 Jun 2016
A new London theatrical production is set to combine karaoke and Judge Judy, pitting two parties in arbitration together in a sing off to resolve their differences.
Called Karaoke Court, the two parties meet in front of a bona fide circuit judge and a live audience who gets to play jury – giving the verdict through green and red cards.
The idea is the brainchild of Jack Tan, a Singaporean who debuted the show in his home country last year. One of the most memorable cases involved a 27-year old woman who wanted to overturn her mother’s 9pm curfew. The mother eventually won after a rendition of the Carpenter’s Close to You.
“I’m trying to create a crisis – the audience have to make a decision between the facts of the case and the performance, between reason and aesthetics, head and heart,” Tan told The Guardian.
Tan himself started out in law as it was one profession his parents approved of. After becoming a legal campaigner on issues such as racism and domestic violence, he became disillusioned with the law in his thirties – a change of heart which led him to take up pottery.
“It was me and a bunch of old ladies,” he said. “My ceramics teacher looked at my crap pots and said, ‘There’s something in them’. That was the first thing I learned about art; even if it looks crap, it can still have something in it.”
After retraining in ceramics and graduating with an MA from the Royal College of Art, he went back to his legal roots after being inspired by non-traditional legal systems.
One method which obviously made an impression was the Inuit tradition of solving disputes through song duels; “Litigation as part of a festival. A sing-off.”
Present day litigation is so far removed from reality, we have turned it into something completely abstract, he said.
“Say two neighbours in a street have a dispute. They actually go somewhere else, to a court, to have a fight, as if it doesn’t affect their home life. Claims and counterclaims, appeals, everything. It snowballs.
“And of course someone will win, because that’s how the system works, but who really wins? Everyone spends loads of money, is dragged through this process, and the two parties may still be pissed off with each other.”
This won’t happen at Karaoke Court though, he promises, as neither party should really get angry.
“You’re singing to each other with cheesy arm movements. You’d be a real party pooper,” he said.
The performance was such a success in Singapore that it is now coming to London where it will be held at Yard Theatre on 23 June. There are even rumours of a television show in the works, bringing this legal spectacle to an even wider audience.