written by Haresh Sharma
directed by Oliver Chong
One of Singapore theatre’s landmark plays, Haresh Sharma’s moving, provocative Off Centre (1993) created awareness of mental illness and highlighted the challenges faced by such patients. Commissioned by the Ministry of Health which later withdrew its funding, it subsequently became, over a decade later, the first local play to be included in the GCE ‘O’ and ‘N’ level literature syllabus. Lead actors Ebi Shankara and Siti Khalijah Zainal turned in powerful performances in this production for The Studios: fifty, which earned the latter a Best Actress win at the M1-The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards in 2016.
Following the performance of Off Centre (2015) at the Esplanade Theatre Studio, the cast and director shared how working on the production has influenced their perspectives on mental health and the discoveries they each made about their individual selves. Hosted by Karen Tan.
Chinese opera has been contemporised and employed as narrative spine and as dramatic form in Goh Boon Teck’s Titoudao (1994) and Leow Puay Tin’s Three Children (1988). Titoudao is a play-within-a-play inspired by the real-life tale of Goh’s mother, a Chinese opera performer, while Three Children was a physical theatre piece combining poetry, drama, opera and dance elements to depict three generations of the migrant Chinese experience in Malacca.
Inspired by the stories of people from the past—including China’s formidable Madam Mao and Singapore’s colonial founder Sir Stamford Raffles—Henry Ong (Madam Mao’s Memories), Robin Loon (Watching the Clouds Go By) and Ng Yi-Sheng (The Last Temptation of Stamford Raffles) imagine alternate universes of what could have been.
Local plays with queer and transgender themes first emerged in the late 1980s. These themes enabled playwrights such as Russell Heng (Lest the Demons Get to Me), Chay Yew (A Language of Their Own) and Desmond Sim (Autumn Tomyam) to explore not only the issues surrounding sexual and identity politics, but also ideas of marginalisation and "the other”.
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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