written by Stella Kon
directed by Aidli ‘Alin’ Mosbit
When first staged in the 1980s, this award-winning play was hailed as a breakthrough, proving that authentic, resonant and original narratives could be written in English, without having to adapt foreign works. Tracing the life of a Peranakan matriarch, Emily of Emerald Hill has since been staged more than 500 times, not just in Singapore but also in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Edinburgh, Melbourne, New York and Paris. The Studios: fifty saw actress Karen Tan bringing out the more down-to-earth, vulnerable side of an iconic role previously played by the likes of Margaret Chan and Ivan Heng.
Pioneer playwrights Lim Chor Pee, Goh Poh Seng, and Robert Yeo galvanised the theatre scene with some of our nation’s first English-language productions, which marked the beginning of Singapore theatre in English. Lim’s Mimi Fan (1962), Goh’s The Moon is Less Bright (1964) and Yeo’s Are You There, Singapore? (1974) not only introduced a Singapore identity and sensibility, but also responded to the nation’s changing socio-political landscape.
Fundamentally Happy (2006), Good People (2007) and Gemuk Girls (2008) form an exemplary trilogy that bears the hallmarks of a playwright known for tackling social issues. These plays won Best Script at the Life! Theatre Awards over three consecutive years. They marked the playwright’s return to realist narratives after a period of exploring non-linear and more experimental modes of storytelling.
From army boys (Army Daze) to lady boys (Private Parts) and beauty queens, Michael Chiang’s comic and explosive world of larger-than-life characters has for three decades moved even his harshest critics. One of Singapore’s most successful playwrights, Chiang’s popular works continue to be restaged and adapted.
In 2015, The Studios marked the nation’s 50th birthday with a celebration of Singapore English-language theatre and the practitioners who have contributed to its development. Over a period of five weeks, we revisited some of the stories and characters that not only moved and inspired us, but also captured our collective memories and the pluralism of Singapore identity.
Co-curated by Chong Tze Chien, the season featured five landmark plays reimagined in full (with one staged each week) and 45 dramatised readings categorised thematically; some of which were classics written by our pioneer playwrights, while others were award-winning works by the new generation.
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