Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) is known to favour staging foreign plays or imported classics such as ‘Merchant of Venice’, ‘Othello’ and ‘Richard III’. Or adapting scripts to feature a mix of international and Singapore actors.
Award-winning director Samantha Scott-Blackhall explained why she is happy picking foreign scripts: “They've been through workshops, performances, flops and successes in their home countries, so that by the time they reach me, I know they have their kinks all worked out.
“Local scripts don't always have that privilege.”
Now, its upcoming ‘Made In Singapore’ series aims to change that.
New scripts that will be staged next week will include works by new and noted Singapore writers.
These writers have put their scripts through an incubation process with help from celebrated directors, dramaturg Jack Bradley from The National Theatre in London, experienced fellow playwrights including David Henry Hwang of ‘Madam Butterfly’ fame, and professional actors, all over the past two years.
They even put up a staged reading in SRT's DBS Arts Centre in 2012, with audience members invited to give feedback.
The cast of 'Made In Singapore'
PERFECTING SINGAPORE SCRIPTS
The productions are now part of a double-bill for ‘Made in Singapore’, under the direction of Scott-Blackhall, who, for all her experience directing established foreign classics, has also dedicated a good part of her time pulling fledgling Singapore-produced works to their feet.
“I spent so much time in Action Theatre working on new scripts with new writers. It was always nice to workshop and talk with the writers and the cast on how to lift the text off the page and turn it into a stage play. That's the hardest part, but it helps that these works are wonderful.”
They are also stunningly Singaporean.
‘A Wedding, A Funeral and Lucky the Fish’ by Dora Tan is about a family living in Toa Payoh, whose humdrum routine is interrupted when their eldest daughter, an air-stewardess, returns home after a long absence to with her awkward Caucasian banker fiance.
Michelle Tan's ‘Stand Behind the Yellow Line’ revolves around a single, homeless mother waiting for her son to return from jail.
While one is a darkly funny family drama and the other is more lyrical, both plays have something in common.
THE THINGS LEFT UNSAID
Scott-Blackhall said: “’Lucky the Fish’ is a comedy about different generations of people wanting to get out of this culture but trapped by it. It highlights the people that we don't talk about because Singapore is supposed to be this perfect place where all the young people have jobs and the older generation is happy. But underneath the comedy, you see how the characters are stuck.”
She also points out that the characters are like “rejects from a perfect society”: “You have the homeless woman who has no place and would rather be invisible, and a girl who has been overseas and now doesn't know where her home is. Who and what gets left behind and what do we do with things we have no place for? In that sense, both plays are about Singapore's marginalised.”
While the stories sound incredible on paper, the director is quick to add that “the playwrights might decide to tweak even more things from there” to make it better for the stage.
She pointed out that there is much potential to market Singapore plays.
“I have artist friends who are in the US or in England, and pick up scripts from here, written by Kuo Pao Kun or Eleanor Wong, to stage. The fact that this dot in the middle of nowhere can make a mark in the world... wow. We need our aspiring playwrights to keep writing, keep getting the scripts out there. Those that survive are scripts that we can be really proud of.”
‘Made in Singapore’ | Date: 7-9 March 2014 | Time: 8pm Fri, 4pm & 8pm Sat | Venue: DBS Arts Centre, 20 Merbau Road | Tickets: $30-$50 from Sistic