Thirteen years ago, Simone Lourey watched her first W!LD RICE show in Hong Kong. Today, she is an integral part of the W!LD RICE family. A W!LD RICE Angel who also sits on our board of directors, Simone just received an Associate of the Arts Award from the National Arts Council for her contribution towards the Singapore arts and culture scene. She talks to us about her connection to W!LD RICE and how theatre helps us all understand and articulate what it means to be human.
Tell us a little bit about how W!LD RICE came onto your radar. Do you remember the first W!LD RICE show you ever watched?
Yes, of course. It was Emily of Emerald Hill in Hong Kong in 2000, where I first met the show's incredible lead actor Ivan Heng. I saw the production again at the Melbourne International Festival in 2002, when Ivan played within our State Theatre complex. He was as fun and fabulous as always and people loved him/Emily and the insights into Singapore. We have enjoyed the shows we have seen since and greatly admire the company's many achievements.
What prompted you to come on board with W!LD RICE as an Angel?
My family and I arrived in Singapore in 2006 after eight years in Hong Kong and feel blessed to have worked within and contributed to the 'Asian story' of regional growth and increased prosperity. It is a 'karmic' necessity, I think, to give back to community and society. We support organisations in sectors that have an important role to play but may struggle to do so. We believe in the arts industry and its capacity to articulate and build emotional and intellectual understanding of the issues of our time.
What aspects of W!LD RICE's shows appeal to you?
I think they are a company of great humanists. Focussed on articulating what it is that is important to people, what makes us human, regardless of where we come from or who we are. They present both shared and different perspectives on contemporary life here and generate dialogue and understanding that builds a sense of community that is quintessentially Singaporean. You might not agree with everything they say but you recognise the importance of what it is they do when you see their shows – and everything they do is done with great affection, intelligence and humour. It's an irresistible combination of great depth and marvellous hilarity.
Your support has helped us put some really incredible shows. Do you personally have a sentimental favourite amongst them?
I think the work of Alfian Sa'at has to be amongst the most significant currently being staged in Singapore and W!LD RICE is brave to be navigating the terrain of these works. Cooling-Off Day and Cook A Pot Of Curry were revelations. I think it must be difficult for some to see those works on stage. But when you experience this kind of theatre you realise that it builds self-understanding and the kind of resilience that people everywhere will need as we all face the issues of the coming years. These issues are truly complex. That old cliché – 'the truth sets you free' – is something that comes to mind.
What are your views on the current theatre scene in Singapore?
There are a significant number of events and wide choice of work on stages now so it seems increasingly vibrant, which augurs well for the future. I don't think it's easy at all for artists anywhere to start out but there are also some creative experiments happening particularly with venues here which is fun. I think there is a sense of a creative domestic ecology evolving which hopefully will develop further through growth in corporate and private supporters along with government endeavour. W!LD RICE's role as a public champion of local artists is something I am very conscious of here too.
How important are theatre and the arts to you personally?
Oh, I would intellectually starve without them! The visual, performing and literary arts give us 'food for thought' as we go about daily life here. Singapore is a young country and in a constant state of evolution. Sometimes, the issues faced here are not dissimilar to other young countries – issues of identity, of economic disparity, perhaps a bit like 'growing pains' through development. The theatre, in particular, gives voice to some of those issues, and helps explain what is happening around you. An increasingly diverse country with increasingly diverse points of view needs a channel through which the wider community can access those different thoughts, reflections and opinions. It's a fundamental part of comprehension of society. W!LD RICE, like most artists across history, play their role in articulating that with great finesse. They manage to create marvellous nights of theatre and, to my mind anyway, a sense of inclusive experience and joy within their audience and community. That is not an easy thing to achieve and, as Angels, we are very proud to play what small part we can in that process.