Local theatre, front and centre

Speaking of not necessarily knowing very much about local writers, the Singapore Theatre Festival is in its last week and there are some neat shows to see: Second Link, which I believe was first produced in 2004, and Wong Chen Seong’s new play Salsa Salsa Salsa!

I haven’t bought tickets for this week’s shows yet because I’m, er, a little broke after seeing three Festival plays in previous weeks: Silence of the Kittens, Homesick and The Campaign to Confer the Public Service Star on JBJ They were all new plays, by Ovidia Yu, Alfian Sa’at and Eleanor Wong respectively. Were they absolutely the best things I have ever seen on stage in my entire life? Of course not. They were new plays, being tested in public for the first time, and they were, to varying degrees, a little rough around the edges.

But what I think is important is the idea of the Singapore Theatre Festival itself and its scheduling to coincide with the annual National Day celebrations.

The playwrights may not have entirely nailed it (with the possible exception of the second act of Eleanor Wong’s play) in terms of what their plays could be, but the fundamentals are there, the right questions are being asked and the attempt to say something beyond the banal about this country is very powerful indeed, even if uneven. It is important and helpful to consider our sense of national identity or nationhood through the lens of theatre, and despite its imperfections, I think the Singapore Theatre Festival has achieved just that in getting audiences into the shows, in getting people talking about their plays (even if some may get royally slammed) and in getting people talking about what theatre in (and) Singapore should be. There’s a lively buzz in the Drama Centre at the National Library surrounding each performance, and I’d like to think that it’s not just people greeting each other with kisses on either cheek or empty flattery about the night’s show.

Coming back to Liangcai’s earlier post about local writers, I’ll add that if you want a crash course in some local writing, Second Link is the play to see. It has Singapore actors interpreting Malaysian texts, and Malaysian actors having a go at ours. Besides airing the work of Singapore and Malaysian writers onstage, it’s also certainly a different take from the usual divisive “squabble” paradigm that seems to frame Singapore-Malaysian relations in the local news!

1 Comment so far

  1. liangcai (unregistered) on August 19th, 2006 @ 2:31 am

    I personally felt that timing “The Campaign to Confer the Public Service Star on JBJ” to show during the National Day period was quite interesting, really. :)

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