Time for that periodic round up of things I’m busy with in the coming months.
1. YOU ARE HERE, November 18-19 2016, Esplanade Recital Studio
This show started out as a small Powerpoint confessional in the Living Room of the Arts House, commissioned by Checkpoint Theatre for their groovy What I Love About You Is Your Attitude Problem, then got picked up for the Esplanade’s Raw series, where we added some theatre razzle-dazzle to it– mixed reviews, and lots of learning points. Then it got picked up for the Queensland Poetry Festival, where we realised it speaks beyond Singapore, but that it’s in Singapore where the show has a special urgency. In November, we bring it back, and it’s getting the full stage treatment and a brand new audience at the Esplanade’s Kalaa Utsavam.
Pooja Nansi, writer and performer, and I have decided to push ourselves fully into the theatre as a form, un-wieldly as it sometimes is: push the show, push the text to its performable limits. Let’s see where it goes. Also restructuring the text some, rewriting some of it, adding new material. What’s a play? How do you transform something for the theatre? Is it always a positive transformation?
For those new to the pitch, it’s a story–elegiac, bracing, angry, loving, cheeky– about Pooja’s family. Beyond that, it’s about new waves of immigration to Singapore; about growing up in an immigrant nation that nonetheless quibbles about “originality”. It features the horrible racist micro-aggression of this multi-cultural city in denial alongside a prayer and a love song to travellers past.
This time we are working with the beautiful contributions of set designer Wong Chee Wai, Lighting Designer Woan Wen, Multimedia Designer Genevieve Peck and Sound Designer Ryann Seng. And of course Pooja’s soulful writing and disarming delivery.
Tickets and more info here.
2. TANGO, 19 May-4 June 2017, Drama Centre Theatre
Been working on this play for over a year now, since Tracie and Adrian from Pangdemonium approached me with the prospect of dramatizing a real-life story about a UK gay couple looking to move to Singapore with their kids. One half of the couple is Singaporean, hoping to return to spend time with aging family, and in trying to make that move, several issues– both bureaucratic and social in nature– cropped up.
There’s a lot of stuff I’ve been able to think through and explore while writing this play. Being gay in the Singapore of the 90s, for instance, and the ways that responses to homosexuality have changed since then. The ways in which, for a character returning from the UK after several years, the return is like revisiting the site of trauma? How through the exchange of information, global capital and cultural influence, we might be said to have ‘progressed’. But also how those same winds of change have brought new tensions and flash-points; in some ways empowering gay people while making the better-placed amongst us complicit in other oppressions.
It’s also been challenging for me to think through and dramatize a story that brings this super-charged argument from another society into our local political landscape; to essentially stage an artistic intervention in the conversation around gay rights here with success stories from a completely different fight. The privilege surrounding all of this, the problems of transposing one fight for gay rights onto another. How do you represent the dream of same-sex marriage and family in a society where this dream is not available or conceivable for so many of us, struggling with questions of identity and citizenship and for some, getting through the day?
And then from this swill of problems, to create something that functions well as a play.
So my pitch: the gay couple comes, unassumingly, to Singapore and overnight becomes embroiled in a massive nation-wide controversy. What ensues is a fiery dance between points of view, milieux and narrative threads. The idea is to cross fantasy with politics, privilege with activism, agit-prop with bourgeois drama, Chinese food with a bitter taste in the mouth.
Come see if I succeed, May 2017!
Season tickets for the whole Pangdemonium 2017 program are available here.