Testify to Love!

The company of Let’s Get Back Together give us their personal testimonies about working on this show and why it matters.

In 2014, a group of young theatre-makers banded together to tell the stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Singapore. The team interviewed 50 brave individuals, and wove these testimonials into a funny, fabulous and occasionally heartbreaking play. The show, by Red Pill Productions, was a sold-out smash hit.

In their own words, the company and audience members of Let’s Get Back Together share testimonials of their own, touching on LGBT issues and the lessons they have learnt from watching or working on this very special play.


MARK NG
Director/Playwright

This has been a very personal project for me, as I identify as gay and am still in the process of negotiating that with my parents. I took a huge risk and came out to my mother publicly during the last run of the show. I was happy that she took it well; she even said that she would be proud of me no matter what. Whom you love is a big part of your identity, and not being able to share that with the ones you care about is very difficult. The first step towards acceptance is understanding. I want the show to be able to help others take that first step.

Doing research on the perspectives of conservative Singaporeans who are opposed to the repealing of 377A was a frustrating and taxing process. It was easy to get angry and respond in a knee-jerk, defensive way. But, after some time, I realised that what lies at the heart of a lot of the bigotry and hate is ignorance. What needs to be done is to unearth the human aspect of the stories and the truth of what it’s like being LGBT in Singapore. Stories are what connect people to one another, and this medium, specifically testimonial theatre, can achieve that.


KENNETH CHIA
Playwright

When we started the research process, we started blindly, with no contacts. Many of our initial interviewees were very sceptical about our intentions and commitment. They thought we were just a bunch of young kids trying to tackle the issue because it was ‘cool’ and controversial. They were so sure we would f**k it up. But we had no intention of failing. And I think that was the most rewarding part of the process: gaining their trust through sheer hard work and conviction. The play is the result of a true collaboration with the community, not some solitary playwright in his bedroom writing about other people’s stories.

The best part about being young and unknown: we had nothing to lose. So, when our arts grant was denied at the last minute by the powers that be, we were doubly determined to push through and make a point. We made a call for private donors and started an Indiegogo campaign. The response was very encouraging.

When we opened to a full house and had people queueing up to be on the waiting list for the entire run – when, in the darkness of the theatre, we glimpsed hands entwined, heads on shoulders, as audiences laughed and teared – those were the defining moments for me. It was real. I was so happy for all the stories that were being told and, more importantly, I dreamt of all the stories that our play would help to tell in the future. I hope this restaging brings the play to a fresh new audience, that people bring their friends and family, including those who wouldn’t normally come to the theatre or discuss these issues.


EZZAT ALKAFF
Actor

Reading the script, which pulls together so many different people’s stories and struggles, it struck me that I actually knew so little. I never realised how much I was in the dark. As someone who has close friends who identify as LGBT, it was scary realising how little I know. If I knew so little, what about people who don’t know anyone or don’t know anything about this community?

People are discriminating left-right-centre nowadays, especially with social media sites making it so easy to dish out hate to anyone from the comforts of one’s own home. I hope that people get the chance to listen to these real-life stories, and find out more. It doesn’t stop just at LGBT: it’s LGBTQIAP+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual and others). If I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, I think other people would stand to gain from catching the show too!


JO TAN
Actor

I believe that LGBTs are being denied very basic rights in Singapore and beyond, like the right to feel safe with someone they care about – or even just desire – without being harassed and punished by people. I would hate it if somebody suddenly took exception to my relationship with my husband and decided that it was fair game to abuse us and tell us we’re going to hell for being happy together.

But have I ‘done’ anything? I’ve said some angry (but moderate) things over social media. I have talked sternly (but moderately) to friends, relatives and colleagues for saying, ‘He is so girly he is probably gay’. I’ve listened to wonderful, wonderful friends who have thought they were freaks for wanting what they want. I’ve tried to highlight my LGBT friends in print articles for my freelance writing gigs (usually to have all mention of their LGBT-ness heavily cut or edited by various powers-that-be).

But I wouldn’t dare call myself an activist. I haven’t done anything fiery, vicious, ‘made a statement’, and I’ve always felt I should. I feel that being part of Let’s Get Back Together is letting me make a statement – in the right way. It doesn’t shout. It’s just verbatim theatre, which tells the very human stories of the people that I think have got the short end of the stick, in their own voices. I think this could be the start of a real conversation.


RUZAINI MAZANI
Actor

Let’s Get Back Together speaks to my own struggles as a gay man living in Singapore. The labels and stigmas mentioned in the play are very familiar! It helps me voice out my own struggles, questions and dissatisfaction with the ways in which we’re perceived. It’s a privilege to play a part in expanding the canon of gay theatre and literature in Singapore.

I hope this play helps shed new light on how sexuality and gender are not the same. Maybe it will help people to see that it is natural being gay, just as it’s natural to be straight. It’s not a choice or a social construct. These days, what is ‘natural’ has become synonymous with what has been dictated by religion as the norm. “It’s wrong because it’s against God, or God’s wishes. Therefore it’s unnatural.” I hope it’s possible for those who share the same religion to realise that there’s nothing wrong with People Like Us.


ELEANOR TAN
Actor

As a mother, I try every day to find the best ways to teach my child about right and wrong, oppression and freedom, standing up for your beliefs, standing by the ones you love. It makes me so proud to be an actor, to be able to help tell stories that need to be heard and understood, to do my part to shed light on the struggles and triumphs of an oppressed, misunderstood minority. It reminds me of the responsibility we have as artists to hold up a mirror to society, to provoke and inspire, to question and challenge, to help sow the seeds of change.

I have attended almost every Pink Dot celebration in Singapore with my husband and child. We usually accompany one of my closest friends, a gay man, and his partner. I have always been proud to stand by my good friend’s side, to watch him put my daughter on his shoulders and go walking around Hong Lim Park in an ocean of pink outfits and happy faces. One day, I hope that it will be just as normal and acceptable for him to walk hand-in-hand with his husband down the street in Singapore as it is for me to do so with mine.


PERRY SHEN
Producer

Have you ever witnessed a debate? Do you realise that, at the end of it, nobody ever changes their mind? This is because, as ironic as it sounds, facts do not change people’s minds. Stories, people and conversations do. This is essentially what Let’s Get Back Together hopes to do. We hope to change people’s minds and we hope to do it in the most peaceful and effective manner.

A brilliant example would be my dad. He belongs to the generation that believes being gay means shame, being a sissy and many other horrible things. When he realised that I was doing this play, he was sceptical and apprehensive. But, after watching the show and having countless discussions with him, he has changed his mind. Now, he scolds old aunties for using the word ‘gay’ as an insult!


TERENCE SIM
Audience member & Perry’s dad

Before this show, I didn’t know much about LGBT individuals. Initially, I didn’t know the difference and I didn’t bother about the difference. After watching the show, I have a clearer picture of what L, G, B and T stand for.

I remember this story from Let’s Get Back Together. There was this transgender man who went for a sex change. One day, his grandmother asked him: “When are you going to change your name?” It’s something I will always remember, because it shows one generation finally accepting another generation. He is not disturbing anybody, so why are people unhappy? These communities don’t bother straight people. So why should we bother them?


YEELIM CHONG
Audience member & church-goer

I found Let’s Get Back Together to be very informative and real, as the stories told are experiences human beings have gone through. Often, being of either ‘camp’, we are exposed to unbalanced amounts of information regarding LGBT issues and are encouraged, even forced, to take a side. I learnt that this social division between camps is unnecessary, and we shouldn’t treat or even view someone as different simply because of sexual orientation.

The LGBT issue isn’t a battle that is to be fought and won when the other side surrenders; the real issue is about human lives and their struggles as they journey through existence. It is about an understanding that we must reach because we are at a crossroads, and there is a choice that we have to make together as a society. If suffering is perpetuated because of the adamant defensiveness of either side, then the only losers will be ourselves. Ultimately, we are all simply human beings trying our best to make our way through life.


Let’s Get Back Together plays at the Singapore Theatre Festival from 7 to 10 July 2016. Visit www.singaporetheatrefestival.com for more information!

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