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SINGAPORE ENGLISH DRAMA IN THE EIGHTIES - A SEARCH FOR IDENTITY?

This piece is a continuation of the writer’s essay on Singapore English drama as published in the 1st issue of A4ria which dealt with developments up to the late seventies. It should be noted that most of the plays mentioned in this essay are discussed from the point of view of the scripts as opposed to the production. Furthermore the plays discussed in this essay are limited to those available to the writer at the point of writing. Unpublished pieces are not within the scope of this essay and hence any conclusions and discussions derived in this essay pertain only to available sources. Dramatic developments in the nineties are also not within the scope of this essay and will be the subject of another article.

Taking a look at the situation of Singapore English drama in the eighties, one might say that it presented a picture of a search for directions. The materialistic conditions of the country had improved, Singapore had developed in the a bustling international city of business. Making full use of its extraordinary geographical position in the Straits of Malaya, Singapore became a key trading city in which Southeast Asia traded with the rest of the world. An exceptionally formulated education policy resulted in a workforce population geared to the needs of Multinational companies. Practically and culturally the country was looking more and more toward the West, rather than the first generation Singaporean immigrant homelands of China, India and the Malay Archipelago. Theatrically, this meant the beginnings of a certain groping towards looking for what theatre in Singapore should be.

The Conditions

The education policies implemented with the independence of Singapore in 1965 when four official languages (Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English) were adopted with English as the dominant language of employment and education, had started to kick in.
Yet even at this time the overall proficiency of the population in English was far from ideal. A 1979 report on education by Goh Keng Swee (the then Deputy Prime Minister) indicated that of those sitting for the primary leaving school exam, only 71% continue into their secondary education; of these only a mere 14% continue into the A levels.

However the increase in the quantity of local English language theatre groups as well as the number of locally written scripts demonstrated that a whole different generation had sprung up in a context where English was becoming more and more relevant.
In the 1979 Drama Festival eight groups participated of which 3 were English groups. The 1980 Drama Festival had four English groups participating of which two were expatriate clubs. In the 1984 Festival, five English plays were put up; in 1985 there were eight original local English plays; the Drama Festival of 1986 dealt exclusively with the wining plays of the Shell Short Play Writing Competition. The 1987 Drama Festival saw 14 local plays produced with 24 local groups participating.

Demise of Chinese Drama

Interestingly this period (or rather from ?6 onwards) also saw the gradual demise of the popularity of Chinese theatre which had depended heavily on mainland China for its ideological and dramaturgical direction. Although politically the struggle had been lost in the 60s, the ideology of communism had continued to feed left wing Chinese intelligentsia and Chinese theatre into the 70s. There was hence a direction of some sort, even if it was a lost ideal. Events in the late 70s and in the eighties destroyed this ideal utterly.

These events more or less coincided with the end of the Cultural Revolution and the disillusion with Maoism. Although left wing political activity had been suppressed by the government in the 60s and 70s with the arrest of key members like Lim Chin Siong, Chia Thye Poh and others, the ideological appeal of communism had remained strong within the Chinese intelligentsia community. Reasons being the presence of Communist China, the struggle in Vietnam, the Malayan Communist Party and most importantly the inherently idealistic appeal of Maoist Communism. The revelation of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution was the first step towards the stripping away of this illusion. Deng Xiao Peng’s turn to market oriented economic reforms in 1979 which gained pace into the 80s left observers in no doubt that China was moving toward a de facto capitalism. Political events in the 80’s further culminated in the Tiananmen incident which put the hitherto unquestioned legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party in question.

The late seventies moving into the eighties was therefore a crystallization of the end of the struggle materially, spiritually and emotionally for the Chinese leftist ideology. Coupled with the closing of the Chinese schools, the institution of English as the medium of education and the closing of Nanyang University in 1976 undoubtedly more or less left the Chinese educated in some sort of limbo. Unsure of their role in the country, unable to look to Mainland China for inspiration, the Chinese intelligentsia effectively lost its direction. Theatrically this lost of direction resulted in a decrease of audience turnout and productions. Chinese theatre was thus in a phase of transition.
Emergence of Local English Groups
Meanwhile, the development of English drama had been conducive. More than any other time before, there emerged more local drama groups. Some of these stuck to the tradition of staging Western plays only while others showed that they were more and more willing to stage local writing.

Some of these were Third Stage (founded in ?3), The Singapore Theatre's * American Repertory Showcase or St*ars (founded in ?4), Act 3 (founded in ?4), Theatreworks (founded in ?4), Practice Theatre Ensemble, The SIA Drama Club (founded in ?6), which The Shell Players, PlayAct Productions, Asia In Theatre Research (founded in ?7), The Necessary Stage (founded in ?7) Action Theatre, Hi! Theatre (founded in ?7), Just Theatre (founded in ?7), Arts and Acts (founded in ?7) and others. These groups and others varied in their staying power and notably only a few lasted into the 1990’s.
Divergent Trends
Ostensibly developments in the eighties Singapore English drama can be divided into three strands. Firstly there continued the staging of adaptations or straight Western plays in English. Second continuing what was started out tentatively in the sixties and seventies, a crop of writers attempted to develop drama through straight forward play writing in the Singapore context. The third trend saw an attempt to Asians theatre through using techniques of traditional Asian theatre. The fourth trend was a movement towards an issue based theatre, inspired along Piscatian-Brechtian lines. In between are of course overlapping trends.

Western Adaptations

In the eighties adaptations and local productions of foreign plays mainly were staged by ET and Theatre works, and to a lesser degree other groups as well. The most successful of these was probably "Nurse Angamuthu’s Romance"- Mx Le Blond’s adaptation of Peter Nicholl’s "National Health". The former played on the metaphor of a nurse as the state of Singapore. Along the same lines but with less success were other ETC productions of "The Effect of Man in The Moon Marigolds" (?0), "Susan’s Party"(?3), adapted from Mike Leigh’s "Abigail Party" , Albee’s "Zoo Story"(?5), Berkoff;s "Harry’s Christmas"(?6), "Confessional"(?6), "Sexes" and Theatreworks?productions of .Yukio Mishma’s "Hanjo" and "Kantan"(?6) Paradise Heights(?5), based on David Mamet’s "Glengery Gen Rois", "Be My Sushi Tonight"(?5), "The Elephant Man" (?7), Genet’s "Maids", "Diary of a Madman"(?6), "The Window"(?6), "Fanshen"(?5) from William Hintus?book of the same name among others. The Varsity Playhouse, a campus drama group was also active in this trend doing productions like Oedipus(?7), "Passion Play"(?6), "The Cow"(?4), "Woychner"(?8) and so on.
These plays, were for the most part wholly imported foreign plays or at best adapted to Singapore’s situation. The argument was that local plays simply did not have enough dramatic potential to be staged. In the words of ETC director Chandran Lingam, he felt that when he watches a local play he "..don’t hear people speaking or talking to one another".

Hence the solution was to bring in foreign plays with themes that hopefully the local audiences can identify with. And in fact, this path was that which was taken by most drama groups in the eighties. As a solution, it had its varying degrees of success. At its best it exposed local audiences to Western classics and honed the skills of the actors and directors in the productions. At its worst it simply avoided confronting the whole problem of Singapore theatre coming to terms with the role of English in life and on stage and how the gap can be bridged. By using the language of foreign playwrights, a certain dimension of the reality of existence in Singapore would have already been lost. At times it would even result in a spectacle of Singaporeans playing angmos(foreignors) on stage with angmo concerns. Even adaptations face this problem of forcing a ‘Singapore?situation into the frameworks of foreign play. More often than not the result could be a travesty of the original work peppered with local references.

National Play Writing Competitions

The National Play Writing Competition initiated in 1982, continuing into 1987 brought out a flux of plays. Some of these plays are Koh Juan Toong’s "The Bringer of Wonder" and "Ghost In the Machine"; Chew Peck Wan’s "Aspirations"; Anne Koh’s "Will the Black Sheep of the Family Please Stand Up"; Stella Kon’s "The Bridge", "The Trial"; Yeo Soh Choo’s "After the Razzle of the Day"; Elizabeth Su’s "The Clown"; Balaji’s Sadavisan’s "A Question of Duty"; Ravindran Veloo’s "The Play Within" and Lee Thien Wah’s "Lucretia". At worst they reflected overcompensation over colloquialisms, at best it showed the beginnings of an English dialogic understanding of human interaction like Yeo Soo Choo’s "Cell City" and Eleanor Wong’s "Pistachios and Whipped Cream". In addition there were other play writing efforts such as "Not Afraid To Live"(?6) based on war hero Elizabeth Choy’s life, bilingual playwright Kuo Pao Kun and others. The relative merits and demerits of local play writing efforts will be discussed later.

"Asianizing" Singapore Theatre

A third trend took the path of confronting the English problem through localising it within Asian theatre parameters. Groups like Arts & Acts under Chua Soo Pong, and the Asia in Theatre Research during this period, under William Teo used Asian theatre and Asian myths and legends for their material. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata were dramatised by the former using Asian theatre techniques with a minimal of dialogue in neutral English.

One of the first proponents of Asian theatre in terms of staging and adaptations of Southeast Asian legends in Singapore, Chua grew up in Java and Singapore receiving training in traditional Javansese court dance and where Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppetry) and Chinese opera were very much part of his childhood experiences. He later trained in Chinese dance under Mdm Li Shu Fen, a leading Chinese dance teacher in Singapore and ballet at the Singapore Ballet Academy. An ethnomusicologist Chua was also much influenced by the early Chinese theatre practitioners Thia Mong Teck and Liu Ren Xin. From the mid eighties onwards he was responsible for the main productions of Mandarin drama group I-Lien Dramatic Society including the Cao Yu classics such as Wilderness in ?6 (Ô­Ò¡ã) and Consort of Peace (ÍõÕѾý)in ?7 which was performed in English and Chinese. Chua also dramatised Javanese legend Princess Jasmine in 1984 in Mandarin and in English in ?8. In 1989 Chua’s production of "Ramayana" won Best Director and Silver Medal at the Toyama International Theatre Festival and participated in the International Youth Theatre Festival in New Zealand in 1990. He also staged Korean play Womb under Arts & Acts in ?9. "Mahabharata" was staged in ?under Arts & Acts.

Coming from a diverse theatre and dance background Chua’s aim was to bring physicality in a convincing way onto the English stage as well as utilizing the maxims and conventions of Asian and in particular traditional Chinese theatre in his productions.
Teo’s theatrically formative period was spent in Europe between 1975-80 where he was immensely influenced by the developments and innovations ushered in by Peter Brooks and French director Ariance Mounchkine’s Theatre du Soleil. Joining Theatreworks when he came back to Singapore, Teo put up productions of "Gypsies" in ?6 and "Rashomen" in ?7 where he first started to experiment with Indian and Japanese (Kabuki) theatre techniques respectively. In his time with Theatreworks he also directed two productions of Mishma’s translated Noh plays as well as Genet’s "Maids".

Leaving Theatreworks to pursue a separate vision in ?7 he set up theatre group Cosmos which soon to be renamed Asia In Theatre Research Teo began a period of concentrated theatre activity and experiment. In the same year Teo put up a production of Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca’s "The House of Bernard Alba" at the Drama Centre which experimented with the oriental concept of a bare stage.

Searching for a space where actors could both rehearse, interact and perform at, Teo staged the next production was Indian theatrically inspired "Medea" in the open air at the Fort Canning Park. In this production Teo also experimented with live musicians accompanying the performance. Probably for the first time in Singapore English theatre. 1989 saw a theatrically interesting production of "Mother Courage" at the since demolished skating rink at Fort Canning. The success of Teo’s two productions at Fort Canning Park was a factor that led to the government’s decision to redevelop the area as a hub for the arts, eventually constructing art housing and performing spaces for theatre and dance companies. Teo’s group was however not among the recipients and were ejected from Fort Canning after ?9.

These developments brought in by Arts & Acts and Asia In Theatre Research, although different in focus, were important in that it represented a re-discovery of the theatrical treasures of Asian theatre forms like the Wayang Topeng or Chinese Opera for a generation of audience as well as theatre performers if in a somewhat diluted form or adulterated form.

Chua’s works sought to bring an Asian dimension to theatre through the staging of traditional Asian plays with Asian acting techniques, tended to focus on the physical aspect of Asian theatre, considering Chua’s dance background. In that sense there was an intent to bring an Asian form and to an extent, an Asian identity rather than a Singaporean identity to the theatre he was doing. In comparison Teo’s interpretation of Asian theatre forms were very much influenced by Brooks?excavation of Asian traditions which were rooted in the need to find a "universal" theatrical language. Notably the plays that Teo staged in this period were either Western plays or Asian plays translated by Westerners. Invariably then the influence of Brooks and Mounchkine’s interpretations were unavoidable. There was however an interest in reclaiming the Asian theatre traditions as will be seen by his work in the nineties.

On the whole these developments presented a double edged sword which on the one hand presented alternatives to Western realistic staging and acting techniques but on the other opened the door to Orientalism.

An Issue Based Theatre?

A third trend took the shape of staging plays with an overwhelming focus on social issues at the expense of neglecting dramatic concerns of dialogue, character, plot, conflict (depending on which school one subscribed to) . For example, ETC’s production "The Life And Times of Mr X" was an attempt to encapsulate 25 years of history through the experiences of a multiracial family. Another production along similar lines was "Bumboat" which was a series of sketches on Singapore. The emphasis of these productions were on the issues presented.

One may of course argue that certain schools of drama in the Western tradition such as Ibsen’s "problem plays" or Brecht’s "epic theatre" are concerned with societal issues. The difference here is that the techniques of play writing were never secondary while in the Singapore situation, the vehicle of drama or theatre was secondary, the primary focus being the issues themselves.

A pioneer in this area was Third Stage (formed 1983) which whose productions included "No Foul Play", "Oh! Singapore", "Corbela", "Oh Singapore II", "Kevin’s Birthday Party" by Chua Siu Tze, "Esperanz"(?6) by Wong Souk Yee. These plays dealt variously with social issues like suicide, marriage, maid abuse among others. This experiment was however brought to a halt in 1987 when significant Third Stage members were linked to a Marxist conspiracy uncovered by the government. After their arrest, the activities of the group grind to a halt as the rental of their premises, previously provided under a rental scheme by the Ministry of Culture was not renewed.

The Necessary Stage, formed in ?6, was to continue this trend in the late eighties and increasingly into the nineties. Its earlier productions included adaptations as well as locally written plays but showed no distinct slant towards social issues. This was to change in later plays in the eighties such productions as "Rigor Mortis" and "Lanterns Never Go Out".

More subtle and technically proficient was the work of Practice Theatre Ensemble under Kuo Pao Kun. Kuo’s works are interesting in that the plays he wrote and directed differed from the other straight forward issue plays in using metaphors to bring out political-social issues. These issues varied but more frequently than not pointed out to the price that has to be paid for having an efficient bureaucracy, economy and country. This price is more often than not associated with the loss of traditional values, personal space, linguistic diversity and so on. "The Coffin is Too Big For the Hole" (English version, ?5) for example sketched the delay of a traditional funeral due to bureaucratic procedures on burials, thereby making the restriction of the burial ground a metaphor for restriction on personal space, even after death, in Singapore. Similarly, "No Parking On Odd Days", through the events surrounding the responses of a father and son to the issuing of parking tickets made a statement about the process of socialisation of individuals into a habit of compliance and obedience.

In like manner, Kuo’s other works during this period, "Mama Looking For Her Cat", a workshopped production about a Chinese dialect speaking woman looking for her lost cat and the resulting estrangement between her children and herself due to the inability of the parties involved to understand each other. "The Silly Little Girl And The Funny Old Tree", probably the least successful of Kuo’s eighties work, wove metaphors and ambiguities around the cutting down of an old tree and the attempts of a little girl to prevent the event.

Although Kuo was primarily a Chinese playwright, the problem of audience accessibility was partly solved as Chinese and English versions of the play were written hence ensuring a wider audience.

A Sense of Direction? - Local Attempts at Drama

In most senses, the problem English drama faced in the sixties and seventies - namely the struggle to give voice to a variety of English on stage that did not carry with it the colonial baggage of the Queen’s English, were not solved but accentuated or avoided in the eighties with more playwrights and drama groups springing up. English was still an extremely uncomfortable language as far as drama was concerned. Firstly it still wasn’t the language that the majority of Singaporeans speak in their daily lives, secondly the varieties of English used on stage just did not sit well.

Chandran Lingam’s remark to the effect that he did not hear people talking to one another in local plays had actually hit the nail on the head. The majority of local plays written were still rather awkward dramatically. Consider for a moment the one of the most prolific playwright of the seventies and eighties, Stella Kon and her plays like "Elder Brother", "Dragon Tooth Gate" and so on where the characters she wrote about were Chinese speaking coolies, gangsters, Qing dynasty officials and so on. Kon put into the mouths of these characters a form of English that was grammatically correct but attempted to imitate the structure and cadences of Chinese. The result was an more or less an exotised English coming straight out of the likes of Flower Drum Song and Kung Fu.

Naturally the fact that Kon was writing for an English audience may have something to do with this. Similarly when the West produces their "Oriental" productions, they have an idea of what their audience wants in these productions. On the ears of bilingual Singaporeans this form of language just sounds bad. Kon’s claim to being the most published yet unperformed local playwright is probably right, but not for the reasons she thinks. Kon certainly succeeded better when she wrote about something she knew about i.e. the Peranakan perspective in "Emily of Emerald Hill".

In this sense then, Kuo’s play "Mama Looking For Cat" was a landmark of sorts in combining various dialects, Mandarin and English on stage. Kuo succeeded where Kon failed, in giving voice to the numerous linguistic entities in Singapore. The downside of it, however, was that although Kuo did give these linguistic entities their places on stage, they remain rather cardboard-like characters whose actions were dictated by the exigencies of Kuo’s dramaturgical message. Kuo’s plays showed a distinct influence by Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre theory. The writer emphasize here Brecht’s theory as opposed to "his" works as it can be argued that often there is little connection between the two .

Brecht’s epic theatre theory put an overwhelming emphasis on message that should be put out to the audience rather than the creation a suspense of disbelief which is in fact antithetical to epic theatre. Accordingly characterization, motivation and dialogue would be of secondary importance. The plays of the Brecht workshop however showed a sophistication of dramatic construct and characterisation that belies the claims of Epic Theatre. Followers and admirers of Brecht however often took his theory literally in designing plays that focused on message, message and message with the result of creating two dimensional plays.

The problem with theatre of this sort is its temporal relevance which is at the same time its strength i.e. its immediate nature and relevance at the point of performance. Hence the issue of the lost of the Chinese dialects and generation gap were relevant issues in the early eighties when Mama was performed. Repeating however what was quintessentially an experiment in the nineties(as it was done in 1998) merely highlighted the dated nature of the play. Although some observers are already calling the play a classic, skeptical bystanders may comment that in fact not enough time has lapsed for the work to show that it has stood the test of time. What is undeniable however is that it was an important experiment at that point of time.

Interestingly enough Kuo’s better works were his earlier ones before Mama, namely "No Parking On Odd Days" and "Coffin Is Too Big For The Hole". Of interest here is Kuo’s cultural and political background. Born in China and coming from a predominantly Chinese educated background Kuo and his wife were detained in 1976 for communist related activities. Although his wife was released shortly, Kuo himself was stripped of his citizenship in 1977 and not released until late 1980. The theme of No Parking - the compromising of truth in order to get around a bureaucracy, was perhaps a personal echo of the struggles Kuo went through during his stint with the Internal Security Department. Unfortunately Kuo abandoned this theme for more social and obvious themes in his later plays. Especially beginning with Silly Little Girl onward, his plays increasingly began to lose it edge in their ability to grip the jugular. Kuo’s inability to abandon the monologic form for a dialogic form also seriously limited the range of his work.

At the other end of the spectrum of course were plays written without an ostensible direction. Plays like Eleanor Wong’s "Peter’s Passionate Pursuit", Ovidia Yu’s "Dead on Cue", Michael Chiang’s "Army Daze" and others were plays that entertained according to the "laugh a minute" theory rather than any serious attempt at drama. These plays succeeded to a certain extent in bringing a poor man’s version of Neil Simonish affableness to Singapore situations such as sexual inclinations among the yuppies, the experiences of the Singaporean male in the military and so on.

To that extent these plays, in particular those staged by Theatreworks managed to attract a fairly large audience (relative to other groups), in effect Singaporeans who viewed play going along with museum visiting as the kind of activity that a cultural elite engaged in. The end objective was more often than not entertainment and nothing more. Yet even with this aim ostensibly in mind, these plays were not able to sustain the companies that produced that as the English speaking population was still very small and of that, the that went to theatre was even smaller. Hence they still had to rely to a large extent on governmental suppport. For the reasons that they had the largest audience of all, Theatreworks for example was able to claim that they were doing popular theatre, hence totally distorting the term used. In fact theatre in the eighties continued to be a fringe activity outside mainstream Singaporean society.

Other playwrights at least attempted to bring some consciousness and responsibility of the dramatic method into their work. Koh Juan Tong’s "Bringer of Wonder", for example, a play about how the Vietnam conflict implicated the lives of Singaporeans, had a sense of probing but(in the opinion of this writer) fell into the melodramatic trap. As did Yeo Choo Soo’s "After the Razzle Of The Day", a family drama. Faring slightly better was Yeo’s "Cell City" which had echoes of authenticity in its dialogue and dramatic situation about a group of friends living together and breaking apart.

An separate development of the eighties was the work playwright Kelvin Tan Yew Leong, whose oeuvre in the eighties was limited to three plays, only one of which was published and performed during that period. Tan was a third prize winner of the 1986 Shell-Esso Short Play competition with a one act play Tramps Like Us - a play set in the context of the local music scene. Tan’s two other plays "Life Is An Angel" and "Goodbye Jennifer" did not see the light of day as they were not selected in the 1987 competition.

These three plays, problematic in their own ways, represented serious investigations into the use of dialogue, dramatic situation and characterization, to achieve a sense of depth and reality on stage. One of the quintessential problem of drama as indirectly postulated by Luigui Pirandello’s Six Characters In Search of a Play and directly by him elsewhere is surely the ability of characters in a play to achieve a life of their own independent of the writer. This essential problem of "dialogism" had hitherto been largely untackled in Singapore drama where characters more often than not ran the danger of becoming mouthpieces of writers to cardboard characters or at worst reproductions of stereotypes. It can be argued that even Kuo’s plays despite their commitment to many voices as in Mama, in reality presented a monologic consciousness.

Tan’s characters, ranging from the writer and musician in Tramps, university students in Angel; and a national service man and thirtyish woman in Jennifer had the quality of lost voices caught by a radio transmitter and filtered out into the dramatic form. Tan’s concerns as compared to the other playwrights, was not on using issues, protest or staging to achieve a certain "Singaporeaness" but rather through a certain consciousness of dialogue and the concerns of individuals. In fact one could argue that these concerns may not even be uniquely Singaporean in their nature. What then prevented the works from slipping into a Western mode of articulation?

For example in Tramps, a one act play about a writer and a musician contemplating the ends and means of art ending in the suicide of the musician, Tan experimented with a certain Tenneseian lyricalness of lost dreams and desires tempered with the erratic rhythms of Singapore English. The experiment though not so successful in Tramps saw its fruition in Angel and Jennifer in a dialogue that held reflected poetic dimensions without sacrificing the sparseness of everyday conversation. Contentwise Tramps brought to the foreground the question of identity, as perceived in the tragic character of Clelland, a Chinese musician playing Western rock music. The bastardised identity of a Singaporean possessing at once too many roots and no roots was given a bleak turn with Clelland’s death but a new lease of hope with Brinsley’s acceptance of life. This bastardised identity was further accentuated through the names of the protagonists Brinsley and Clelland which had a quality of being Western and yet non-Western.
Search for a Singaporeaness?

From the above discussion one can may venture to say that the situation had changed drastically from that of the sixties and seventies in that a firmer search for a "Singaporeaness" in theatre had began through the efforts of different theatre groups and individuals. This also had the result of widening the audience base with different approaches of theatre catering to different audiences.

The four trends described more or less continued into the nineties. Significantly however, the role of play writing decreased with greater emphasis on ‘improvisation? physical theatre and social theatre. Many playwrights in the eighties did not continue their work into their nineties. Tan for example worked in seclusion until the latter half of the nineties. In many ways one may even regard the experiments of the eighties crystalising into firm paths that various theatre groups took into the nineties not without certain consequences. These developments and its consequences will be discussed in a future article.

Afterword: It should be noted that the ideas ands in this piece are written from one man’s point of view and is in no way looking to define what is "good" drama or "bad" drama", if it could be defined at all. In that sense that the views are held to be accepted or rejected depending on the proclivities of the reader. More important is the necessity of the provision of competing paradigms at how art and in this case theatre can be looked at in Singapore. The idea behind Thomas Kuhn’s theory of scientific paradigm informs us that our vision in any field is necessarily limited and restricted to the world view which is imposed by our acceptance and use of the prevailing notions and structures in that self same field. That which helps us also limits us. Hence for example, the Newtonian perception of the universe had to be overturned before Einstein’s relative universe could be accepted. In this case, the situation is of course in a totally different category of gravity, the example however serves the purpose of illustration. This same intention informs the printing of this journal as well as the writer’s articles in Life!

The writer presently works at the Chinese Opera Institute and is a drama practitioner. He has workshopped and directed Kelvin Tan’s "Tramps Like Us" (1997) and "Life is an Angel" (India Theatre Olympiad 1998 & Shanghai Experimental Theatre Festival 1998), as well as directing and acting in a workshopped production of "A Handful of Dust" (1998), an actor collaborated 21-scene drama. He is presently working on a performance of "Vermeiden A(Void)" targeted for March 1999, a monologue by Kelvin Tan.


 

WONG KWANG HAN

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