Time Out Singapore: 30 Things We Love About Singapore Theatre

With new shows taking to our stages every week, Singapore’s performance scene is growing like never before. Gwen Pew puts together an essential guide on the local stage.

SG Theatre

6 Jun 2014:

The forefathers (and mothers) who set the scene

Young as our local theatre scene still is today, it has nonetheless come a long way in the past few decades. Back in the 1950s and 60s, most shows were staged by expats, for expats, and it was thanks to the efforts of several key players that the slangs and spices of Singapore were infused into the stages. Amongst those championing for the average person’s voice to be heard wasKuo Pao Kun – who is still honoured as one of the main founding fathers of modern local theatre, having established companies such as The Theatre Practice and The Substation, and inspired a whole generation of theatre makers with plays like Lao Jiu and Mama Looking For Her Cat. Others include playwrights Robert Yeo and Stella Kon, whose most important plays include One Year Back Home, which caused controversy as it was the first time that political dissidence was portrayed on stage, and the ground-breaking one-woman monologue Emily of Emerald Hill (directed by one of the youngest people to be awarded a Cultural Medallion, Max Le Blond) respectively. T Sasitharan also contributed to the scene substantially – he was the theatre critic and then arts editor of the Life! section of The Straits Times until 1996, and later co-founded the Intercultural Theatre Institute with Kuo Pao Kun. (Rant & Rave, a play by Chong Tze Chien that was first produced in 2012 and restaged last month, is a great starting point for remembering and exploring some of the key people and moments of the early days, and worth catching if it returns for a third time.)

Playwrighting programmes

There’s no real excuse for any aspiring playwrights not to give it a go these days, with a huge support network and an abundance of opportunities to do so. TheatreWorks, for instance, have been running their 24-hour Playwriting Competition for years (their next one is happening on 21 & 22 Jun; seewww.theatreworks.org.sg), with the prize being a staging of the winning play. The Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) also launched their inaugural Made in Singapore series last year, which encourages people to send in their scripts for the chance to be dramaturged by leading playwrights, while the recently launched Centre 42 – a stunning blue bungalow on Waterloo Street that is supported by the National Arts Council (NAC) – likewise cast their open call for new works as part of their Boiler Room initiative. Furthermore, the centre also has a black box space, which, like The Substation, hopes to provide a place for up-and-coming plays to be staged. If you’re hoping to get your fill of hot-out-the-oven works, theatre festivals are a good place to go, too.

Venues big and small

Theatre can be staged almost anywhere, but Singapore does boast of a number of pretty neat venues. Big local shows will usually be shown atEsplanade – Theatres on the Bay, the Drama Centre Theatre (especially for companies such as Pangdemonium, W!ld Rice and Toy Factory) or DBS Arts Centre (Home of the Singapore Repertory Theatre), while imported shows are usually staged at Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands orResorts World Theatre at Sentosa. For some colonial charm, Jubilee Hall,Raffles Hotel (The British Theatre Playhouse) and Victoria Theatre, which is currently being renovated and slated to reopen in October, are your best bet. Companies looking for smaller spaces usually go for black box theatres like the Drama Centre Black Box (Yellow Chair, Our Company, Couch Theatre),The Substation (Cake Theatre), Goodman Arts Centre Black Box orAliwal Arts Centre Black Box, or theatre spaces at universities including SOTA, Lasalle or NUS. If you want to get an idea of how things work behind the scene, check out Esplanade’s guided tours, which come with 45-minute ($8-$10) and two-hour options ($24-$30).

Leaders of the pack

Behind every great play is a great director, and thankfully, we are in the company of some very able leaders who aren’t afraid to tackle difficult issues. Old hats like Ong Keng Sen (TheatreWorks) became the first person to receive the Young Artist Award (1992) and Cultural Medallion (2003) for advocating intercultural performances, and helped to shape the way contemporary theatre looks now. Alvin Tan (The Necessary Stage), too, has spent the past few decades pushing for works that deal with local concerns to be staged, while giving opportunities for the young and old to experience acting through the education arms of the company, and keeping up with the times by incorporating social media into his latest play, Poor Thing.

Also pushing the boundaries by tackling relatively taboo subjects is Ivan Heng (W!ld Rice), whose company had their NAC funding cut from $190,000 to $170,000 in 2010, allegedly because their productions promoted alternative lifestyles and parodied political leaders; their funding has since gone back up again, however, and they received $280,000 last year for their ‘conviction and vision to lead the development of new content and talent’. And while Tracie Pang (Pangdemonium) has been choosing to stage mostly foreign plays, the topics they deal with – such as mental illness in Next to Normal and obesity in Fat Pig – are no less tricky, and always classily done. Some of the other directors we wish to give a shout out to for constantly challenging the norms and exploring new ways of representation includeNatalie Hennedige (Cake Theatrical Productions), Kok Heng Leun (Drama Box), Noor Effendy Ibrahim (The Substation) and Goh Boon Teck (Toy Factory). The list could go on.

Drama in the drama circle

It’s no secret that the arts in Singapore have always had a somewhat awkward relationship with the state – all shows are currently required to apply for a performing license before being staged publically, and while a pilot scheme where companies can opt to impose their own rating system is to be tested in July, people in the arts community have voiced concerns about self-censorship. It’s not surprising, then, that there has been a number of well-publicised scandals, fallouts and bans to get the gossip going, the most famous of which is probably Josef Ng’s Brother Cane (1993) – the public pubic hair trimming and act of stubbing out a cigarette on his own arm in protest of the arrest of 12 gay men resulted in a ten-year funding restriction for performance arts locally. Six years later, Alfian Sa’at and Chong Tzi Chien’s sex.violence.blood.gore was ordered to remove three scenes because the MDA deemed it racially and religiously inflammatory (though The Necessary Stage got around that by handing out printed copies of the cut scenes to audiences at the door). Another controversy to erupt is Talaq by Elangovan (first staged in Tamil in 1998 and 1999, but when the English version was due to come out in 2000 it was banned for apparently being insulting to the Muslim community, and ultimately led to the sudden closure of the Drama Centre Theatre at the time that the performance was due to take place, an hour-long standoff and the eventual arrest of several members of the company).

In a move that state control is perhaps starting to loosen up, however, Tan Tarn How’s Fear of Writing (2012) was successfully staged – to critical acclaim – even though its central premise alludes to the fact that censorship causes writer’s block and has a fourth-wall-breaking final plot twist. There are also an increasing number of works that explore previously taboo themes, such as politics (Square Moon by Wong Souk Yee in 2013), sex (SRT’s staging of Venus in Fur in 2013), race (Cook a Pot of Curry by Alfian Sa’at, also in 2013) and other difficult subjects to get public debate going.


Learn from the pros

Love musicals? Musical Theatre Live’s MTL Musicals Appreciation Serieshas got your back. Held every even month at Library@Esplanade, the session is a showcase of songs followed by comments and discussions (their next one is on 27 Jun with the theme of Jazz at the Musicals); on the odd months, they run a My Favourite Musicals series, where people involved in the musical scene will share their favourites with the audience. Musical Theatre Mondays by Tim Garner also takes place at TAB every few months and invites patrons to bring along some sheet music to do some karaoke accompanied by a pianist. If you want to pick up some extra skills and facts on topics covering all aspects of theatre, then check out the monthly workshops and talks at Esplanade’s Bitesize series. And if you want to go even further, the NAC-supported mentoring, funding and networking group Matchbox host workshops and talks that teach you how to get involved in the arts scene at their monthly meet-ups, Matchbox Mayhem.


This one’s for you, kid(s)

It’s never too early to start falling in love with theatre, and there are a bunch of companies in Singapore that are more than happy to take your little ones on a journey to discover life values, as well as the surprises of the stage. Ones to check out include ACT 3, which has been doing its thing since 1984,Players Theatre, Esplanade, The Singapore Repertory Theatre’s The Little Company and I Theatre – the latter is behind the ACE festival – who all produce great shows. Paper Monkey Theatre puts out Mandarin shows for kids, usually complete with puppets and other antics to keep them entertained, while ABA Productions also brings shows over from overseas, especially for the annual KidsFest (22 Jan-1 Mar 2015).


Rising stars

With more students graduating from the various theatre programmes and courses, we’re seeing a lot of new talents bursting onto the scene in recent years. Some of the greatest young actors we’re especially impressed by include Siti Khalijah and Sharda Harrison (both of whom were deliciously ferocious and hilarious in The Necessary Stage’s Poor Thing, and have been making regular appearances in other productions), as well as Erwin Shah Ismail (last seen with a sex toy in Square Moon). 2013 also saw quite a few youngsters making their professional debuts, including Frances Lee and Zachery Ibrahim (as Helen and Carter in Pangdemonium’s Fat Pig), Theresa Wee-Yenko (as Lady Montague in Toy Factory’s Romeo and Juliet, and also a character in the secretive Inside Job) and Ethel Yap. We also saw a lot of energy, passion and potential at several amateur productions, but one young’un that really caught our eye is the 22-year-old Adeeb Fazah, who masterfully co-wrote, directed and acted in Yellow Chair’s fantastic production of You Think, I Thought, Who Confirm? in March – remember his name, he’ll be making it straight for the top soon.

Unique theatrical experiences

Are you a movie buff looking for a way to get into theatre? Take a baby step by checking out Esplanade’s new National Theatre Live series, which will be screening three productions from the UK’s National Theatre (starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Helen Mirren) from 28 Jun-10 Aug. For regular theatregoers bored of being a passive spectator, why not get right in on the action? While Skinned Knee Productions have been staging shows at restaurants to provide a feast for the eyes and the stomach at the same time for years, other similar pop-up events are increasingly starting to crop up, with shows like ANDSOFORTH’s nautical-themed The Hideaway in May and My Private Chef’s Stories this month playing with a similar concept. If you really want to get involved, however, give Game On’s The Inside Job a go – the three-hour adventure promises take you on a quest around Singapore.

Triple threats

They’re young, they’re hot, and they can sing, dance and act – there’s virtually nothing stopping these talented twenty-something darlings. If you’ve yet to see them around, these are some of the names to keep your eyes on: The Sam Willow’s Benjamin Kheng (who appeared in the lead role of Toy Factory’s Romeo and Juliet in February), Mina Kaye (who has just wrapped up her acclaimed performance in the title role of Pangdemonium’s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice; look out for her farewell concert before she heads to grad school in Boston: The Mina Kaye Show is on 2 Aug), Seong Hui Xuan(most recently seen in SRT’s Rising Son, though it required more acting than singing or dancing) and Glory Ngim (W!ld Rice’s The House of Bernarda Alba, although it was also a straight play); all three ladies were given a chance to showcase their talents in Dream Academy’s 2012 production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company. Linden Furnell – who showed off his chops at Sight Line’s Edges last year and returned with Sing’Theatre’s A Singaporean in Paris this March – is another one to keep tabs on.

Golden oldies

They say life begins at 40, but an energetic bunch of uncles and aunties prove that sometimes, it can start even later. In 2008, The Necessary Stage set up their Theatre For Seniors (TFS) initiative, which invites those aged 50 and above to be trained in all aspects of theatre, such as acting, playwriting, directing and even arts administration. It was a success and while the three-year programme ended in 2011, many of the members are still performing under the group name, and their smiling faces were last seen making the group’s debut of Take Me or Leave Me! at this year’s M1 Fringe Festival.Ageless Theatre, based at the Marine Parade CC and formed in 2011 largely by graduates of TFS, likewise encourages their members to come up with original works that resonate with local audiences; their next show will be award-winning playwright Faith Ng’s work, The Big ‘D’ (10-12 Oct). Previous editions of the NAC’s Silver Arts festival have also incorporated elements of theatre and other forms of performance arts in the line-up.

The Christmas shows

Singapore’s proximity to the equator may not be conducive to a particularly Christmas-y feeling come December, but if Styrofoam snow and plastic pines fail to instill any festive cheer, then at least you can enjoy a pantomime or two. W!ld Rice is renowned for their annual shows, which bear the traditional trademarks such as cross-dressing and audience participation, but are also seasoned with a generous dollop of local humour: remember Jack Neo from Hougang in last year’s Jack and the Beansprout, anyone? Dream Academy’s yearly Crazy Christmas is another one to check out. Set to a different theme every time, it features everything from song-and-dance to comedy.

Foreign talents

Whatever the government policies or general public outlook on foreign talents are, there’s no denying that we’ve got a fantastically capable bunch of them in the theatre scene, including directors like Tracie Pang (co-founder and artistic director of Pangdemonium, from the UK), Nathalie Ribette (founding artistic director of Sing’Theatre, from France) and actor/director Tim Garner(behind Tim Garner Productions and Musical Theatre Mondays, from New Zealand). Of course, there are also a slew of actors who have adopted Singapore as their home (and we hope they stay!): Linden Furnell (from Australia), Julia Abueva (she appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show at the age of 12 and is now performing on the West End’s Miss Saigon, born in the Philippines but largely raised in Singapore), and the hunky Juan Jackson(who starred in Pangdemonium’s Next to Normal and Tim Garner Productions’ Take Me Out, from America), to name but a few.

That’s the ticket

While most major companies go through Sistic, we have been seeing a rise of other ticketing systems cropping up of late to provide some healthy competition. Ticketmash is popular with a lot of medium-sized theatre companies, such as Yellow Chair Productions and Our Company, and whilePeatix, Eventclique and TicketBooth have a stronger focus on comedy, music and workshops, theatre tickets can also occasionally be found on their sites. And as for those of you looking to buy or sell tickets at the last minute,Tixtis is your friend: just fill in a simple form on their website and your request will be posted onto their Facebook and network database, and interested buyers/sellers can contact you directly for payment and tickets. Who knows? It might even be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Festivals galore

Back from a one-year hiatus and some internal restructuring, the Singapore Arts Festival is now renamed the Singapore International Festival of Arts(SIFA; 12 Aug-21 Sep), where 13 works from around the globe will be brought in for the first time, with a pre-festival called The OPEN kicking off on 26 Jun. The Esplanade’s The Studios (until 19 Jul) is set to the theme of Beautiful Beasts this year and tickets are sold at $28 across the board (with concession prices available), but if you’re really skint, their free RAW programme features three works-in-progress that give audiences a chance to get up close and personal with the process of how theatrical pieces are created. Flipside, also by Esplanade, is a more light-hearted event good for all the family, while Pesta Raya (28-31 Aug) Kalaa Utsavam (21-30 Nov) and Huayi (20 Feb-1 Mar 2015) celebrate Malay, Indian and Chinese performances respectively. Look out for The Substation’s annual birthday celebrations, Septfest (1-28 Sep; they’re 24 this year), which will, as usual, incorporate performances, exhibitions and more. We also enjoyed the tenth edition of The Necessary Stage’s M1 Fringe Festival this January, which saw the world premiere of Nine Years Theatre’s An Enemy of the People and a restaging of the hugely successful Best Of by Siti Khalijah. The 2015 theme will be Art & Loss, and is slated to take place from 14-25 Jan.

Get back here!

More and more Singaporeans are studying abroad, and while many of them are tempted to stay out in what they think are greener pastures, a lot of them do come back – but not before they pick up tricks and experiences from leading universities and theatres overseas. We haven’t got the space to name them all, but here are some of the people we’re definitely happy to have back on the Little Red Dot: Adrian Pang (co-founder of Pangdemonium and multi-award winning actor), Caleb Goh (who was part of the well- received Rising Son by SRT), Ethel Yap, Denise Tan (the newest member of the Dim Sum Dollies, replacing the late Emma Yong and making her official debut at the Dollies’ The History of Singapore Part 2 from 11-23 Dec)and Sebastian Tan.

Our mother tongues

With Singapore boasting of four national languages (that’s English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil, if you haven’t heard the public service announcements on the MRT trains), it comes as no surprise that its theatre is also very much multilingual. Some companies that are doing great work include The Theatre Practice, Drama Box and Nine Years Theatre (Chinese), Teater Ekamatra,Teater Kami and Teater Artistik (Malay), and Ravindran Drama Group andAgni Koothu (Tamil, with the latter being the controversial company behind banned plays like Talaq (2000) and Stoma (2013). On top of that,Sing’Theatre also tries to instil a bit of French into the scene. Granted, most of their plays are still in English with just a few lines of French thrown in (often with the help of the French- speaking Singapore Boy and Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Hossan Leong), but they did stage a full-fledged French play, Molière et Moi, in April, with more promised to follow suit.

Get involved

If you’ve fallen so hard in love with the stage that you want to get on it (but wish to try it out before enrolling for a full course at one of the universities or colleges), well, you’re in luck. Many of the theatre companies in town have an education arm that caters to all levels, interests and ages. W!ld Rice has just re-launched their 18-month young & W!ld programme for 18- to 26-year-olds hoping to work with esteemed industry professionals (their 2014 season has already started, but keep a look out for their 2015 audition dates), while Act 3 International’s Drama Academy has classes for tots as young as 18 months and up to 15 years old. Interested in puppetry? I Theatre’s Creative Edge teaches that, as well as mime, physical theatre and other elements. Into more quirky, experimental stuff with a touch of dance? Wait for the return of Cake’sIn A Decade. And if you’re keen to just dive right in, Yellow Chair are constantly looking for new, young actors and welcome people with little experience to their auditions – who knows, you might even find your life’s calling after giving a few lines a go!

The mighty pen

We’ve peppered mentions of some brilliant works throughout this feature, but there are a few prolific playwrights behind many of our local classics that really helped put Singapore on the map. Dick Lee and Michael Chiang have both been writing musical after musical since the ’80s, but while the former has barely left the scene since then, he continues to forage into new things, with his most recent work Rising Son being the first straight play he’s ever done (see our five-star review); the latter, on the other hand, took an unplanned 14-year hiatus but made a comeback with the well-received camp comedy High Class last year. But the ’90s also saw an army of playwrights bursting onto the scene. There’s the locally-based Malaysian Huzir Sulaiman(co-artistic director of Checkpoint Theatre, and behind works such as Atomic Jaya), Haresh Sharma (who has written more than 100 plays to date and shows little sign of stopping) and Alfian Sa’at (whom we love for both his hilarious and political works as well as epic Facebook rants), while later on in the decade saw the rise of Chong Tze Chien (artistic director of The Finger Players and clinching several Singapore Dramatist and Straits Times Life! Theatre awards) and Jean Tay (whose most recent work, Senang, exquisitely captured the true story of one of our forgotten islands).

Brave new companies

There are now more theatre companies in Singapore than ever before, with new kids joining the block left, right and centre, many of which were formed by friends who met during theatre school. Some of the ones to have been founded in the last couple of years include Couch Theatre (whose first production, Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play, opened to a full house and received critical acclaim last July; their next show, Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, is on from 17-26 Jul), Our Company (their first show, Three Children & Hokkien Me: A Double-Bill, also debuted last July, with Dear Noracoming up later this month), Bound Theatre (the intimate Scroll opened this February, with plans to stage another show next March) and Red Pill Productions (who announced their arrival on the scene last October with Haresh Sharma’s sex. violence. blood. gore and a new work about the local LGBT community coming up in August).

Back in the day

With a whole network of new-fangled technology and modern day inspirations available to us, it’s easy to keep moving forward too quickly. But sometimes it’s worth remembering what brought us here, as well as what came before: long before the faces and places we mention in the feature even existed, people used to enjoy a very different kind of performing art. Traditional Chinese street operas, wayang, for instance, were very popular until the Japanese occupation, and is now a dying breed. The Main Wayang Company, however, still painstakingly tries to preserve the art form, and will be preparing a range of shows for their tenth anniversary this year at the Night Festival, National Day Celebrations and other events. Getai has likewise been around for decades, and indeed is still popular in heartland areas throughout the mid-year Hungry Ghost Festival; if you want to catch it earlier,the Lien Foundation and Ang Chin Moh Foundation are currently staging a production called Die Die Must Say (4 & 10 Jun) in a campaign to get people to talk about death and dying. Other styles include wayang kulit(shadow puppet play that are typically centred on epic tales of gods) from Java and bangsawan (a type of Malay opera that usually depicts traditional legends about love and treachery), though these are less commonly seen today.

A new gen of playwrights

With the increasingly robust support system for budding playwrights and companies, there are, unsurprisingly, a great number of new faces cropping up. Faith Ng and Joel Tan have both been making waves for the past few years as associates with Checkpoint Theatre: the former being the creator ofFor Better or For Worse and the latter having written plays like People and W!ld Rice’s Jack and the Beansprout. Dora Tan and Michelle Tan also impressed with their works at SRT’s Made in Singapore series last year with the hilarious yet thought- provoking A Wedding, A Funeral and Lucky, the Fish and the chilling Stand Behind the Yellow Line. And try to catch the second staging of Wang Liansheng’s The Boy Inside at The Studios, too.

Imported goodness

While Singapore has spent the past few decades painstakingly building up a local repertoire of theatrical works, it’s still nice to have the luxury of catching West End or Broadway shows without having to necessarily get on a plane. Luckily, we have easy access to them year-round: last year alone, the SRTintroduced Singapore to Shun-Kin, Musashi and The Suit as part of the 3 Titans of Theatre series, while ABA Productions brought over the West End’s A Woman in Black and the first ever visit of Shakespeare’s Globe with an all-female production of The Taming of the Shrew. The British Theatre Playhouse, co-founded by John Faulkner – a former West End actor himself – and his wife, also routinely import shows from Blighty, including The Mousetrap (2013) and Yes, Prime Minister (which ended its run last month). Meanwhile, musical fans can enjoy big glitzy affairs at MasterCard Theatres, presented by Lunchbox Productions and BASE entertainment – their next show, The Sound of Music (11-27 Jul) will see seven talented local kids, who won their roles through an open audition, perform alongside the pros.

Government support

Yes, as we mentioned above, the arts and state do not necessarily co-exist peacefully all the time. But it’s also true that Singapore’s government is one of the few in the world that is actively pumping money into developing the arts (the UK, for instance, has been battling against cuts in funding for years, to no avail), with several grants, schemes and other platforms from the NAC available to theatre groups and practitioners. And then, of course, we have the kickass Arts NMPs. The former The Substation artistic director, Audrey Wong, and actress Janice Koh have both made their marks as formidable fighters for the arts community, and while Koh will be stepping down from the role after two and a half years this summer, her successor will be announced shortly (although Drama Box’s artistic director Kok Heng Leun was the only person to have put his name forward at the time of print, with the blessings of many in the industry).

Class A alter egos

There are plenty of hilarious people on our stages (as Dream Academy’s recent Happy Ever Laughter proved for the second time this April), but out of the lot, we really do owe a lot of laughs to Hossan Leong. Not only is he funny himself, his Hossan Leong Show also gave rise to some of our most memorable onstage personas: remember Karen Tan’s civil servant character,Lorrie Chia? How about Judee Tan’s Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor,Teow Chow Moi (aka TCM TCM)? Happily, they’ve taken on the roles so well that they occasionally appear even outside Mr Double Confirm’s shows, such as during Dream Academy’s Happy Ever Laughter and Crazy Christmas. Another guy we love has got to be Sebastian ‘Broadway Beng’ Tan, who mixed his love of Broadway with his ah beng roots – and a devoted flock of chiobus – for a truly unique persona. And if you want to get a hit of that right now, search for his Hokkien version of Bruno Mars’ ‘Just The Way You Are’.

Graduating talents

It’s a win-win situation when it comes to school productions: yes, they might not be as polished as the ones put out by professional companies, but everyone’s got to start somewhere – plus tickets for these are usually substantially cheaper than all the other shows out there, and you never know what new talents you might be surprised by. The graduation play season has just ended with some fantastic productions on offer, but when next May rolls around, keep an eye out for what the kids from Lasalle, SOTA, NUS, NTU and NAFA get up to.

Getting more bang for your buck

If you want to find out more about a show and have a chance to chat with the cast and creative team, one tip is to call up the theatre company in advance and ask them which night their post-show talks will take place, as many performances will be accompanied by at least one of them. Most theatre festivals (including SIFA and The Studios) also have public education or engagement programmes that provide workshops, talks or other activities to help audiences gain a deeper understanding of what the main performances are about. Plus, they generally don’t cost much either, so why not try to get more out of the shows?

Improv anywhere

Forward planning and rehearsals are all good and well, but sometimes it’s good to be a little spontaneous – and The Improv Company (formed by previous members of NUS Stage’s IMPROVables from 2010-2013) does a great job of spreading that free spirit. They meet up every Saturday at The Improv Den, where the two-hour sessions are designed to introduce participants to the basics of improvised theatre, while also performing their side-splitting skits monthly at various venues around town. Tapestry Playback Theatre is another group worth checking out. If you’re not familiar, playback theatre is a form of improv where a play is formed on the spot based on the audience’s life stories. Tapestry was founded in 2002 and remains the first and only one of its kind – their most recent show, Left Behind, took place last May.

A healthy dose of Shakespeare

While The Bard was unlikely to have ever visited Singapore, we’re pretty sure that he would be happy to know his works are very much alive and kicking on our little island. This year alone, we saw four productions of Romeo and Juliet(by Toy Factory, Lasalle’s Level 1 and 2 drama students, Singapore Dance Theatre and the UK’s TNT Productions which, if anything, gives a taste of the spectrum of performances we have to offer). The SRT also celebrated Shakespeare’s 450th birthday by sending an actor decked out in Elizabethan frills around town, pictured – part of a publicity stunt for their annual Shakespeare in the Park, which was back last month with The Merchant of Venice. November will also see the return of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, this time with the delightful comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (13-16 Nov).

The backstage heroes

It’s the end of the show. The cast take a bow, and then raise their arms to gesture vaguely into the distance as the audience continues to cheer – but really, the backstage crew deserve more credit than they get. Their jobs are essentially to make sure everything runs smoothly – from costumes to lights and sound to set, they all need to be meticulously planned and executed – while the whole thing wouldn’t have been possible without the producers and directors to begin with. See our backstage heroes feature as we get some of the best people in their respective fields to tell us what their roles are really all about, so next time you clap at the theatre, you know exactly what – and who – you’re clapping for.


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