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Singapore theatre has had no shortage of notable directors, from the impassioned storytellers like Chong Tze Chien and Claire Wong, to the auteurs with strong artistic visions like Natalie Hennedige and Noor Effendy Ibrahim, to the facilitators of artistic collaboration like Alvin Tan and Kok Heng Leun.
At the wheel of the proverbial ship, different directors can steer the same play in wholly different directions. For example, Ong Keng Sen’s eclectic, poised staging of the seminal Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral in 1995 is world’s apart from Jeff Chen’s colourful and brash version in 2015.
With the director playing an integral role in theatremaking, a steady supply of new directorial talent is essential for the health of the entire theatre ecosystem. So when theatre educator Adam Marple pointed out that the pipeline could be running dry back in 2019, it was cause for alarm. In an article for ArtsEquator, Marple noted a dearth in training opportunities for young directors, and asked, “Where are Singapore’s next directors coming from?”
Fortunately, more local theatre companies and performing arts venues have taken up the mantle to groom new directors in recent years. Companies like The Finger Players and Singapore Repertory Theatre have mounted residency programmes offering young theatre practitioners opportunities to assist established directors, as well as direct productions on their own.
Other companies have offered associate positions to young directors, such as Timothy Koh, Associate Director at Pangdemonium; Thomas Lim, Associate Artistic Director for Youth and Education at Wild Rice; and The Necessary Stage’s Associate Artists Sindhura Kalidas and Deonn Yang.
Venues like Gateway Theatre have their own residency programmes for young directors. Esplanade too launched the TRIP programme in 2022 in which early-career directors stage a play of their choice at the Esplanade Theatre Studio with creative, technical and venue support.
With the future looking brighter for directors in Singapore theatre, let’s get to know 10 up-and-coming theatre directors who are already making their mark on the scene.