6 – 24 Aug 2008
Drama Centre and Esplanade, Singapore
W!LD RICE’s biennial festival dedicated to the development and staging of new Singapore plays featured 14 new plays by 6 theatre companies over the course of 3 weeks.
From bold, funny and irreverent, to whimsical, thought provoking and beautiful; from the intimate and personal, to the epic and fantastic; these plays represented the ideas of a generation of theatre artists reflecting on the problems and possibilities of our times.
By re-examining our history and legends, tackling urgent issues and musing about what the future might hold, the plays offered imaginative and critical perspectives.
Three themes stood out in this 2008 festival. The first was multiculturalism. In The Swordfish, then the Concubine, a multiracial Singaporean cast performed episodes from the Malay Annals, interpreted by a Chinese Malaysian playwright, revealing how a pre-colonial past was very much a vital part of our nation’s heritage. In angel-ism, we witnessed a collaboration between a Chinese-language and a Malay-language theatre company, arguably the first of its kind in recent years.
Another theme was that of history and memory. The Last Temptation of Stamford Raffles was an ambitious, iconoclastic treatment of the life of Singapore’s official founder, whereas I Am Queen provided us with a daring glimpse of turbulent pre-Independence Singapore and Malaya through the eyes of an exotic dancer. Tree Duet and House Of Memory offered a contemplative account of the fragility of memories in a city of forgetting.
A final theme was that of the future. The works of some first-time playwrights. Apocalypse: LIVE! and the plays in Own Time Own Target hopefully triggered a wave of new Singaporean playwrights, tackling themes as diverse as armageddon and the army. The plays presented by Magdalena (Singapore) assured us that women’s voices will always be a crucial and invaluable aspect of our vibrant theatre scene.
Life: Regardless of Race: Uncomfortable Silences, Unfounded Fears
Art: The Swordfish, then The Concubine, angel-ism
10 Aug, 5.30pm
Why are race and religion such taboo topics in Singapore? How has Singapore theatre contributed to ongoing debates about race, language, religion and ethnicity? In what ways have the idea of four official races limited our understanding of one another? Should we start speaking about a Singaporean race?
Moderator: Alfian Sa’at (Resident Playwright, W!LD RICE, and Dramaturg, OCBC Singapore Theatre Festival 08)
Panelists: Kok Heng Leun (Artistic Director, Drama Box), Aidil ‘Alin’ Mosbit (Artistic Director, panggung ARTS), Constance Singam (President, AWARE), Lim Kean Bon (Graduate student and author of Performing Whose Identity?: Singapore Malay Theatre and the Politics of Malayness), Dr Kenneth Paul Tan (Assistant Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, author of Cinema and Television in Singapore: Resistance in One Dimension)
LIFE: We the Citizens: Unsung Heroines, Unwritten Histories
ART: The Last Temptation of Stamford Raffles, I Am Queen
16 Aug, 5.30pm
What is the Singapore Story and who are its leading actors? What other kinds of histories are waiting backstage for their turn? Can history be more than a monologue by the victorious and the powerful? How can we mine social memory and cultural works to create our own alternative histories?
Moderator: Dr Paul Rae Tan (Playwright, Tree Duet and Lecturer, Department of Theatre Studies, NUS)
Panelists: Ng Yi-Sheng (Playwright, The Last Temptation of Stamford Raffles), Dr Quah Sy Ren (Playwright, I Am Queen, Deputy Head of Chinese, NTU), Dr Syed Khairuddin Aljunied (Lecturer, Department of Malay Studies, NUS and author of Rethinking Raffles: A Study of Stamford Raffles’ Discourse on Religions Amongst Malays), Tan Pin Pin (Filmmaker, Invisible City, Singapore GaGa)
LIFE: To Build a **** Society: Unchartered Territories, Untested Waters
ART: Apocalypse: LIVE!
23 Aug, 5.30pm
In the future, an environmentally-conscious Singapore will be a multiparty democracy, supported by a free press and a vibrant civil society. In a worldwide poll, Singaporeans are reported as the happiest people in Asia. We can dream, can’t we? We speak to some young people about their wish list for Singapore’s future.
Moderator: Ken Kwek (Playwright, Apocalypse: LIVE!)
Panelists: Laremy Lee (Playwright, Radio Silence and Full Tank), Baey Yam Keng (Member of Parliament, P65), Choo Zheng Xi (Editor, The Online Citizen), Bernise Ang (Founder, SYINC), Seelan Pillay (Artist and Social Activist)